Q: How many mines are there in Arizona?
A: Based on our work we estimate there are 100,000 abandoned mines in the State of Arizona.
Q: Who is responsible for all those mines?
A: Many of the old mines were worked in the late 1800's through the 1940's. When the mines played out, or the market for metals got bad, the miners simply walked away in search of richer finds elsewhere. Even on mines that were patented (sold to the miner by the government) the original owners are long dead. Their descendents often don't know what they own or the mine has been sold for taxes or repossessed by the state.
Q: I own a mine. What am I required to do?
Q: I have inherited a mining stock certificate from my grandfather. How much is it worth?
A: Arizona Revised Statute §27-318 states: Every mine operator or former mine operator or claimant who owns a mine or mining claim or possess a mine or mining claim under lease, contract, permit or otherwise, who knowingly permits the existence on the premises of an abandoned or inactive mining shaft, portal, pit or other excavation which is dangerous to persons legally on the premises, who fails to cover, fence, fill or otherwise secure it and post warning signs, within sixty days of notification by the inspector and who fails to keep it so protected is guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor. This means that anyone owning a mine must keep it fenced and have warning signs posted. There are no requirements for the type of fence or sign but the following are recommendations based on the standard used in Nevada.
A: In general the stock probably is not worth anything. If the company listed on a stock certificate was incorporated in Arizona or the Arizona Territory, you can determine if the company is still active, or how and when it became inactive, by calling the Arizona Corporation Commission at 602-542-3026. They provide basic information on incorporated companies. You may obtain this information by sending a fax detailing the company to the Arizona Corporation Commission at 602-542-3414.
If the company is inactive or the stock cancelled, an original certificate in good condition may still be of trivial value to collectors of mining memorabilia.
Q: How many mines have been inventoried?
A: Since 1992, over 10,000 mines have been inventoried and mapped. Many of these openings are shallow prospects, but many others are dangerous shafts and tunnels.
Q: How many mines have been fenced? How many have been permanently closed?
A: Several hundred mines have been fenced by the abandoned mines program since the late 1990's. In addition ten openings have been permanently back filled and five bat gates have been constructed by the program.
Q: How many of these abandoned mines are actually dangerous to the public?
A: Given the right circumstances, any mine, no matter how shallow, can be perilous. The hazardous rating of an inventoried mine is based on summation of sixteen ranking parameters. If the resulting score of a mine is over a certain level, then the mine is deemed a "Significant Public Hazard." Roughly 13% of the mines inventoried in the last eight years have received this designation. This means approximately 1,200 of the mines assessed pose an extreme risk to public safety.
Q: What is being done to safeguard the public at these abandoned mines?
A: Field personnel carry warning signs and tape and post them at mines whenever possible. Deputy Mine Inspectors visit all unprotected abandoned mines reported to the office. They post warning signs and tape off dangerous openings. The owners are then notified of their responsibility for keeping the mine fenced to protect the public. If no owner of record is found, the Deputy Mine Inspectors will erect a fence around the opening.
Q: What steps are necessary in closing a mine?
A: Prior to closing a mine the following must be determined with the help of the State Land Department:
- Is the mine on State Land? If not, it is referred to the proper federal agency if it is on federally managed lands or, if on private land, the owner is ascertained through federal and county records.
- If the mine is on State Land, does it have an active lease or claim? If it does not, the closure may proceed. If it does, the lessor must be required to fence the mine and post warning signs.
- What is the history of the mine? The Department of Mines and Mineral Resources (ADMMR) must be contacted for a copy of the mine's history. The State Land Department arranges for the State Historical Preservation Office to assess the mine site. This agency also has their archeologists conduct a study of the site, and determine the impact of the closure on the cultural resources of the mine.
- Are there any endangered species living in or around the mine that would be impacted by a closure? The Arizona Fish and Game Department must be contacted to assess the mine openings for bats and other endangered species. Endangered and threatened plants must also be assessed for possible impact by mine closure.
- Is there any potential for future renewed mining of the site? ADMMR's history files and a site investigation by a geologist or mine engineer is the best way to determine future potential.
- Given the above considerations, what is the best type of closure for the mine? A mine with sensitive species or potential future use should be closed using a bat gate or other semi-permanent closure. Mines without these can be filled or capped to fully protect the public.