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State officials secure abandoned mine shaft

by Linda Hiller

The abandoned mine shaft in the Pine Nut Mountains where Kabook the Alaskan Malamute spent six hours awaiting rescue last week has been secured by officials from the state department of business and industry, division of minerals.

“We have determined that it is an ‘orphan mine,’ and put four strands of barbed wire around it and warning signs,” said Bill Durbin, chief of the state abandoned mine lands program. “The vertical shaft was reported as 30 feet deep and actually we measured it as 20 feet deep.”

Monday, Durbin and field specialist George Bishop located and secured the orphan mine shaft, approximately one-fourth of a mile off of Pinenut Road, where Ruhenstroth resident Tom Ward and his two dogs had been jogging when Kabook went down the shaft.

Douglas County Search and Rescue volunteers raised the dog out of the deep shaft after several hours. Volunteer Rob Loveberg rappelled into the shaft to bring the large dog up.

Durbin said the mine was most likely a failed prospect from the late 1800s or early 1900s, where a miner looked for ore – probably silver or gold – found nothing and moved on.

“We estimate there are 50,000 hazardous mines in the state of Nevada,” he said. “This was the 101st in Douglas County.

n Both are dangerous. There are two kinds of abandoned mines – vertical like Kabook’s dogtrap and horizontal mines, or “adits.” Verified mines of both types are identified on USGS maps, but many more remain unidentified until “found” by dogs like Kabook.

Adit mines are actually more dangerous than the vertical shafts, Durbin said, because they invite exploration by unwary spelunkers. In 1996, two men died in an adit in Virginia City due to breathing “bad air.”

On July 4, six young men in Tonopah entered an abandoned mine shaft to check out some old ore carts. One man fell approximately 200 feet after the rope he was lowering himself on broke and another man was lost in the mine for several hours after going for help.

“It’s just not ever a good idea to go into abandoned mines,” Durbin said.

Much of Durbin’s work is paid for by the mining industry, he said. He and Bishop and Dina Carrion are the three-person Abandoned Mine Lands Program department. They have a program, “Stay out and Stay Alive,” which is presented to 70 to 80 classrooms yearly throughout the state and the group also distributes 45,000 brochures to 4th and 8th graders each year.

Durbin said each abandoned mine site gets a rating from one to 10 for danger, and the recently-secured Pine Nut site was labeled a 10 for most dangerous due to Kabook’s encounter with it.

“There are many more orphan mines like that one out there and we’d appreciate hearing from anyone who knows where there are more,” Bishop said.

To report possible abandoned mines, call (702) 687-5050.

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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