One of the primary jobs of the mine inspector is to secure abandoned mines. Abandoned mines can be deadly. Every year people die from falling, carbon monoxide poisoning, drowning, and other ways in and around abandoned mines in America. Arizona has at least 1,525 abandoned mines with known locations that are not secured, and an additional 592 abandoned uranium mines, mostly on the Navajo reservation.
Mines and their tailings can containing radioactive materials, heavy metals like lead and cadmium, corrosive agents, and other materials that can cause cancer and death. Exposure to radiation can also cause genetic mutations in humans, leading to an increase in birth defects. The mines can cause permanent damage to soil, air and water supplies, which affects irrigation water, crops and animals.
Also, some abandoned mines have been discovered to be hiding illegal immigrants and drug smugglers are using them to stash illegal drugs.
Unfortunately, a recent records check showed one mine alone owes the State more than $100,000 in unpaid fines. It is the State Treasury Department’s duty to collect the fines and give the funds to the mine inspector’s office. According to the current mine inspector’s website, it costs approximately $2,000 to secure one abandoned mine. The $100,000 mentioned above, would have paid for the securing of 50 abandoned mines. There is more that the office has yet to collect.
Paid for by Pierce for Mine Inspector, Authorized by William "Bill" Pierce