Utah County to close abandoned mine shaft

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Utah County took proactive steps to close the abandoned Cloverleaf mine shaft following numerous incidents where individuals have been injured while dropping homemade gasoline bombs.

According to Vickie King, executive assistant of public affairs at University of Utah Healthcare, on July 16, six people, including BYU students,were admitted to the University Burn Center and four of them were still in critical condition after dropping gasoline bombs down the mine shaft.

“These individuals did not understand the properties of fire and gasoline,” Utah County Vice-Chair Commissioner Larry A. Ellertson said.

In the past, people, including BYU students, would travel through Santaquin and continue on Highway US-6 West to see the abandoned mine shaft. They’d walk past the “No Trespassing” and Private Property” signs. Some visitors brought Molotov cocktails and other illegal pyrotechnics to drop down the shaft.

These illegal activities will come to halt because of Utah County’s decision to close up the abandoned mine shaft in the Tintic Mining District.

“The county is being provocative by efficiently taking responsible acts to close it,”Ellertson said.

Utah County asked mining experts Ophir Minerals & Aggregate Group to help assist them in safely closing up the abandoned mine shaft.

The Cloverleaf mine shaft is unique and old. It is approximately 1,200 feet deep and dog legs a couple hundred feet. OMAG will have to examine the surrounding land and assess it before they will be able to bring in heavy machinery to close the opening.

Filling up the mine shaft is not an option. According to OMAG Vice-President of Operation in Utah County, Chris Mckee, an option they are considering is collapsing the opening and putting a cap on it, known as a shooting and drilling technique. This will make the abandoned mine shaft safer and not accessible to the general public.

Efforts had been made to safely close the mine before. According to Mckee, in 1992 the owner followed the correct laws and mining regulations to close the mine shaft. They installed heavy duty rebar with a foundation of cement surrounding the shaft. Trespassers used cutting torches to cut a hole in the center, making it easier to drop homemade gasoline bombs. The hole was big enough to the extent that some more daring risk-takers would hang from the opening.

Cloverfield mine shaft is just one of 2,400 covered mine shafts that are on Bureau of Land Management property in Utah. According to BLM  state of Utah spokesperson Mitch Snow, there are roughly 8,000-11,000 mine shafts on BLM land that are left uncovered, not to mention the mine shafts that are privately owned, and the ones on State and Forest Service land.

“We are members of this community and we would like to step up in our community and be proactive,” Mckee said.

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