For the 11th consecutive year, the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has launched its annual "Stay Out-Stay Alive" public safety campaign to warn outdoor enthusiasts - especially children - about the dangers of playing on mine property, according to an MSHA press statement.
Since 1999, nearly 300 people have lost their lives in recreational accidents at mine properties. Almost half of all victims are 15 to 25 years of age, and the most common cause of death is drowning in a quarry.
"No matter how attractive they may appear, active and abandoned mines are not playgrounds. If you're not trained or authorized to enter the property, stay away," said Michael A. Davis, MSHA's deputy assistant secretary of labor for operations. "As we near the end of another school year and prepare for lots of outdoor activities, children and young adults must be aware of the potential dangers that exist."
During the month-long campaign, which runs from April 27 to May 25, MSHA and its partners will visit schools, scouting groups and other venues to talk to young people about the dangers of playing on active and abandoned mine property.
Old surface mines, which are popular spots for ATV enthusiasts, contain hills of loose materials or refuse heaps that can easily collapse and cause deadly rollovers.
Underground mines can have hidden shafts, flooded or airless sections, or deadly gases; tunnels can cave-in; and unused or misfired explosives can be set off by the slightest disturbance or touch.
Water-filled quarries - the mines that claim the most lives every year - have slippery slopes and unstable rock ledges, and the water may conceal old machinery and sharp objects left behind after a mining operation closes. Even expert swimmers may encounter trouble in the dangerously cold and deceptively deep waters. Drowning is far and away the most common cause of recreational accidents on mine property, accounting for two out of three fatalities over the past 10 years.
Dozens of federal and state agencies, private organizations, businesses and individuals are active partners in "Stay Out-Stay Alive."