Monday, May 26, 2008

Old mines now hold the prospect of danger.

The 1848 discovery of gold put "The Golden State" on the map. The legacy of the gold rush however, is not so shiny and glamorous. More than 47,000 abandoned mines burrow into the Sierra foothills. Officials are concerner that the old mines have tunnels and shafts posing dangers ranging from bad air, contaminated water and rotting timbers to rats, rattlesnakes and bats. The job of closing off the most dangerous of these old gold mines could continue on for decades.

With gold prices soaring the danger increases as recreational prospectors attempt to find their fortune in the dangerous gold mines. "Every day, people come in and ask us: 'Where can I find the gold and get rich?'" said Gregg Wilkerson, senior mining geologist in the Bakersfield office of the federal Bureau of Land Management.

The renewed interest in gold can be attributed to the price, now approaching $900 an ounce which is almost double what it was just a few years ago.

In the past year sales of mining equipment has tripled hinging on the growing belief that the once recreational prospectors can make big money. Big money can usually only be made by professional gold mining. Involving experts and an array of safety regulations. They're most concerned about novices who may venture into long-dormant mines.

About two-thirds of California's abandoned mines exist on public property.

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