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DOGM open house on mine closures on Swell

Chris Conrad, center, answers questions concerning the mine closures at the open house.
A series of maps and information concerning the closures of old uranium mines on display at the open house.
People gather at the open house.

By COREY BLUEMEL
Staff writer

Closing more mines in the San Rafael? The State of Utah Department of Natural Resources Division of Oil, Gas and Mining hosted an open house at the Museum of the San Rafael to inform the public and gather comments on more closures in the Swell. Luci Malin, coordinator of the abandoned mines project for DOGM, presented a power point explaining the various types of closures used to secure and make the abandoned mines safer for the public.

The power point showed the block method, natural block method, natural fill method, concrete fill method, and closing openings with grates to allow bat access. Each of the mine securing methods was detailed in the demonstration.

"The purpose of this project is to abate the hazard of abandoned mines in the San Rafael Swell," said Malin. "In this project there are 168 adits (portals) and five shafts which have been inventoried. The area of disturbance will be on 17 acres of land. We will work to save as much of the historic value of these sites as possible. We do not remove debris, artifacts, or take out wooden structures," said Malin.

Malin explained that part of this project is to gather public input and the environmental assessment has not yet been written. The deadline for public comment is April 7. The proposed schedule for the project is for the EA to be complete by July with work beginning in August or September, and will take about three months to complete.

Malin said the purpose of the proposed closures is to reduce the safety hazard to the public with the open sites. Abandoned mines are a serious risk to the public and she encourages everyone to stay away from these sites and not to enter the mines or shafts. Along with the risk of falling in the open shafts, or having an open site cave in, other risks are bad air, undetonated explosives, or wild animals who now call the open shafts home.

Members of the Mojave Underground were present at the open house stating their concerns if the sites are closed. It is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation, documentation, and exploration of abandoned mine sites in the American West. This organization represents more than 400 registered members who share a deep passion for mining history.

They have recently been conducting surveys and inventories of the mines of the San Rafael Swell, regarding the Utah Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining's proposed closures of 173 mines in Emery County. The organization is strongly against these closures and has been working for several weeks to formulate plans to prevent the closures of many non-hazardous historical sites. Many of these sites see a substantial number of visitors, and these closures could negatively impact the tourist income brought into Emery County. "Not only would these closures affect tourism in the area, but would more than likely increase the amount of vandalism at the sites," said one member.

There are 10 sites containing the 173 abatements. They are: Spotted Wolf; Copper Globe; San Rafael Knob; Wild Horse; Hunt Draw; Tomsich Butte; Devils Hole; Bottleneck Peak South; Bottleneck Peak North; and Wickiup. To make comments or for more information about the proposed closures, contact Anthony Gallegos at 801-538-5267, Jan Morse at 801-538-5327, or Malin at 801-538-5253. To make a comment or ask a question at the Price Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management, call Chris Conrad at 435-636-3667 or email at utprmail@blm.gov.




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