Project underway to seal openings to abandoned mines


Abandoned mines in the desert pose a threat. If you’re out on a hike, the state says you could walk right into one, without even knowing it.

Near one Las Vegas neighborhood at Fort Apache and Warm Spring roads, people have removed fencing and warning signs outside of a gypsum mine.

But now, a project will soon close about 40 open portals at that site.

They may appear inviting often appearing as simple caves into a mountain at first glance.

 “You can see areas of the ceiling where there have been rocks that have fallen in the recent past,” said Garrett Wake, chief of southern Nevada, Nevada Division of Minerals  

The holes are actually portals into an abandoned mine, where workers once excavated for the mineral gypsum between the early 1900s up until the 1930s. s

The Arden gypsum mines have been left open ever since, and you can see just how close homes are to the site.

“This poses significant hazards to the general public,” Wake said.

They range in size from about two-feet wide to 100-feet wide. Starting in early April and for the next four weeks, a new project will seal the portals, using the same earth material excavated out of them.

Gypsum is most commonly used in drywall and you can still find the mineral outside. The project will close about 40 openings.

Garrett Wake is with the Nevada Department of Minerals and says the dangers inside could range from rocks falling, to even taking a plunge 100 feet below. 

“A working that goes vertical beneath your feet, so you may just be exploring rocky ground, something like this, and there not be any more walkway in front of you,” Wake said.

It’s not that there aren’t any warning signs, Wake says, the problem is that people have removed some of the safety layers. 

“It’s a big problem coming up here, repairing this fencing, replacing it all the time because that’s the one thing that tells the public who doesn’t know that this is dangerous,” Wake said.

The project will cost $250,000 to complete. A similar one is in the works by the Gold Butte National Monument.

The Division of Abandoned Land Mines program has cataloged nearly 21,000 of the hazardous openings. The 40 found at this site are the closest to homes in the valley. 

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