DOC Seals 65 Dangerous Mine Openings in Cargo Muchacho Mountains

By: Don Drysdale

A project that can trace its history to 18th century Spanish explorers and involved the use of drone technology is unfolding in the southeastern California desert.

DOC staff mapping with UAS in Cargos
“It’s a bird! It’s a plane!” It’s a drone. DOC geologists used drone technology to map the area of the Cargo Muchacho Mountains where at least 65 mines will be sealed.

The Bureau of Land Management and California Department of Conservation’s Division of Mine Reclamation (DMR) are working to eliminate 65 hazardous legacy mine shafts and openings to ensure public safety while also preserving wildlife habitat. The remediation work includes backfilling shallow shafts and installing metal gates and coverings that allow bats to enter and exit mines while keeping people out. The project should be complete in early April. A drone was used to help document the mine features that needed to be addressed.

Adit with new culvert gate at MM&J Mine in Cargos
A culvert gate was installed over the opening of this adit to keep the public out while still allowing wildlife to use the mine as habitat.

The mines are in the Cargo Muchacho Mountains, about a 3-hour drive east of San Diego. Mining has occurred in the area since the Spanish prospected in the 1780s. Large scale mining began in the 1880s and has continued sporadically until recent times.

Although the setting is a bit out of the way, it receives significant seasonal visitation from “snowbirds” (winter RV campers), hikers, recreational miners, and the like. The mines can represent a danger to the public; for example, in 2006 two men were injured when they drove their vehicle into a vertical mine shaft.

DMR’s Abandoned Mine Lands Unit reminds all Californians to “stay out and stay alive!”

DOC staff checking shafts with downhole camera before backfilling
A DOC geologist uses a down-hole camera to check for wildlife before backfilling this mine.

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