National

Calif. aging gold mines danger to modern fortune hunters

A vein of quartz rock is what excited early gold miners in California since that is where the gold often originated from. Gregg Wilkerson, at right, gives a tour of several abandoned mines. There are thousands of such mines throughout the west that have not been closed and pose potential hazard to people.
A vein of quartz rock is what excited early gold miners in California since that is where the gold often originated from. Gregg Wilkerson, at right, gives a tour of several abandoned mines. There are thousands of such mines throughout the west that have not been closed and pose potential hazard to people. Mark Crosse / Fresno Bee / MCT

FRESNO — The discovery of gold in 1848 put California on the map and helped inspire its glamorous nickname: "The Golden State."

But today, more than 47,000 abandoned mines are a treacherous legacy of the search for minerals and metals. Thousands of holes burrow into the Sierra foothills and around the six-county region.

Federal and state officials say many 19th-century mines have tunnels and shafts that pose dangers ranging from bad air, contaminated water and rotting timbers to rats, rattlesnakes and bats. They’re working to close off the most hazardous places — a task that could take decades.

Read the complete story at sanluisobispo.com

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