From Mojave Underground USA Wiki
There are perhaps a dozen or so different ways that you can end up dead from exploring old mining areas including (but not limited to) obvious things such as steep drops, hidden vertical shafts, collapse, or the less obvious CO2 buildup, oxygen depletion from ammonia build-up, getting lost, bumping your head only to pass out and wake up with no battery juice and then really getting lost, animal attack, Hanta Virus, cyanide, lead or arsenic exposure, etc. So not surprisingly, a good solid whiff or two of hydrogen sulfide (a.k.a., sour gas) is just as effective as any of these above-mentioned ways.
Because of this, we do require that activity participants wear hardhats and backup lighting. A multigas detector, such as the Orion four gas detector that the group currently employs, aide in detecting any potentially harmful or explosive gasses or lack of oxygen. The presence of decaying wood or th lack of free flowing air can allow gasses to pool in low places or stratify based on their specific gravity. Walking into one of these areas can stir-up the gasses and cause potential hazards. Certain mines have are covered in a mud/rust/oil sludge mixture (a.k.a. Reesty Goo) Hiking through this is dangerous due to its very slippery properties. We recommend wearing gloves and coveralls that close over your socks. Good hiking boots are also an advantage.
Temperatures inside mines can vary significantly, from the low 50s to the 90s depending on air flow, depth, host rock permiability, and other factors. Water temperatures can be very cold or very hot. Standing pools of water should never be entered as it is difficult to ascertain their depth and potentially dangerous debris beneath the surface. Individuals should always be prepared for temperature extremes.
Please be in good shape for endurance. While most of what we do does not require extremely fit mountaineers and hikers, we do ask that you be willing to endure 6+ hours of physical activity if you wish to join us. Each activity will be classified as to its difficulty on a scale of 1-10.
Remember, we are not responsible nor can we assure your safety when attending activities. Those attending shall hold harmless Mojave Underground, Inc., it's officers, participants, and attendees. With that out of the way, in all reality, mines are not as dangerous and the media would have us believe. By using some simple safety skills, a mine can be an enjoyable and educational exploration experience. Some safety tips:
1. Never touch supporting structures. Supporting structures are usually wooden beams that hold loose rock against the roof and prevent collapses. Many of the structures were put in place under the direction of the mine engineer who deemed the surrounding rock unstable. Decades later, these structures are decaying and beginning to give away. They may be the only thing holding up a roof.
2. Never touch the roof. Prying neat rock or using the roof for balance are not good ideas. Since these tunnels have been holding themselves up for decades, it may not take much for some of them to give way.
3. Keep your voice low, and avoid lower pitches and yelling. Sound waves are vibrations traveling through the air. In a tunnel, your voice is reverberated off the hard rock walls. Loud voices cause stronger vibrations. Deeper voices cause a deeper penetrating and more powerful wave. By minimizing the vibrations you make, you help protect yourself from a cave in. Speaking softly also help an individual to concentrate and think more reasonably.
4. Always have at least one spare light and two spare batteries for each light. A light going out is never a good thing. We've all heard stories of people getting out of caves with their cell phone or watch. Don't let this happen to you! A great advantage we have is the wonderful technology of white-LED. These bulbs don't burn out or break. Their power usage is nominal compared to Xenon and incandescent bulbs. However, things still do happen to them. If the hardware of the light fails, you've got a backup to get you out. The spare batteries are a must. If your light dies and you have no spare batteries, the red-LED uses much less power that the white, and you can usually get yourself out on that.
5. Never explore without a buddy. Splitting up for any reason is a bad idea. If by chance a safety incident occurs, having another person with you may be what it takes to survive or get out if you're lost.
6. Keep tabs on your location. There are some mines that are a simple one way adit that eventually dead end, and others that you can spend days in, much like the Ophir Hill Mine. Keeping either a visual or paper tab on your location can get you out of situations that you might not have been able to get out of otherwise.
7. Avoid potential cave in areas. Areas where piles of ore and broken supporting timbers lie are usually some of the most dangerous areas of a mine. If you must cross these. use your best effort to follow the other rules outlined in these basic rules. Be smart!
8. Watch your floor. On occasion, a miner would dig into the floor of another tunnel; or a shaft could be dug down and later closed with wooden planks. These floors are known as false floors and can give way when walked on. Keep tabs at all times what you are walking on. If you find you are on wooden floors, use extreme caution, and consider returning back to solid ground until you can investigate further.
9. Check your air. Use a multigas meter to sample mine air and be aware of the following items. Make sure the air smells normal, and that throughout your exploration your breathing remains normal. Heavy or labored breathing may be a sign of low oxygen levels or high carbon dioxide levels. If you smell rotter eggs, photo-fixer, or similar, your are likely breathing the toxic gas of hydrogen sulfide (H2S). A concentrated pocket of this will and has killed miners. hydrogen sulfide is usually encountered in coal mines or near coal seams. Hydrogen sulfide has a high specific gravity, and is slightly heavier than atmospheric air. Stale air, or "black damp" is caused by a lack of oxygen and higher concentrations of carbon-dioxide. Respiration, decay of vegetation, animal, or other organic matter can cause CO2 to accumulate. Heavily timbered areas may be this way. CO2 has a high specific gravity, and will pool in low-lying areas with minimal or no air circulation. Keep a lighter on you. They help test which way airflow is moving, along with the concentration of oxygen in the area. Most of the open atmosphere contains 20.9% O2. Any concentration below 16% will extinguish an open flame and is very dangerous.(If in a coal mine, never light a lighter!! High amounts of methane and coal dust can cause quaking explosions!)
10. Research your areas. If possible, learn the type of mine you are exploring, its rock composition, and a basic history of the area such as last date mined. This little extra information can help you determine the safety of the mine and allow you to use smarter logic.
11. Avoid breathing dust. Dusty mines and mill tailings carry every imaginable heavy metal or potentially dangerous compound known in the mining industry. Dusty mines also contain silicosis-causing microscopic shards of rock dust. Mill tailings can contain cyanide from heap leaching. Waste rock may have heavy concentrations of arsenic, lead, or other dangerous compounds. Use care not to expose yourself to dust or tailings. Remove all exploration gear (coveralls, boots, soiled clothing) and place them in a plastic bag before returning home and rinsing them off outdoors. Taking steps to reduce even short-term exposure to potential toxins is good practice.
Last but not least, Always inform another trustworthy party where you are going, an approximation of when you will be back, and who to contact if you are not in contact with your party by a certain deadline.
While this list is a basic outline, mine safety is up to the individual. Use your God given logic and brains when entering a mine. Don't do anything that jeopardizes you or anyone around you. You are ultimately responsible for you own safety.
Mojave Underground Inc, and its leadership are not in any way responsible for any form of personal injury to individuals or damage to property.