Gash in ground at Deer Valley filled with dirt and rocks |

Gash in ground at Deer Valley filled with dirt and rocks

by Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

Deer Valley Resort workers late last week discovered an opening in the ground leading into a mining-era shaft, the third such case in the vicinity since the spring.

Emily Summers, a spokesperson for the resort, said a member of the mountain-operations team found the opening on Friday morning during routine rounds of Deer Valley property. It is located off the Orion ski run at an elevation of approximately 9,000 feet, Summers said. It is uphill from the Empire Canyon lodge, she said. She said the opening led into the historic White Pine mine.

Deer Valley staffers put up barricades around the opening and posted signs warning people of the hazard. The resort wanted people in Empire Canyon for recreation purposes last weekend to avoid the area immediately surrounding the opening.

Summers said resort workers filled the opening with dirt and rocks. The operation started on Friday and was completed by Monday. The shaft was not as deep as others, allowing the workers to finish by Monday. Summers said the opening was 30 feet across and 20 feet deep.

The discovery followed shortly after a similar find in Deer Valley involving a historic mining site. In that case, an opening leading into a mine shaft was found at the intersection of two ski runs in the Lady Morgan section of the resort in June.

Summers said workers filling the shaft in the Lady Morgan area finished depositing dirt and rocks into the shaft on July 7. The resort now plans to cap the top of the shaft with a material made of clay. Once that is done, a layer of topsoil will be put down at the site.

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Summers said investigators blame the unusually heavy snowfall last winter and the precipitation in the spring and summer for the episodes at the two mining-era sites. She said the wet weather "speeds up the erosion process." When the material that was used decades ago to close the top of a mine shaft erodes, it could collapse into the shaft. Such a collapse would leave an opening in the ground like the ones that have been discovered. Filling the shafts with dirt and rocks is seen as an appropriate way to ensure a site is safe.

Park City was founded in the 19th century as a silver-mining camp, and the industry carried the economy through the middle of the 20th century. As the price of silver dropped, though, the mining industry faded. Skiing and the resort industry later rescued the local economy. There has not been active mining in Park City since the early 1980s.

Numerous mining-era sites, though, remain in the Park City area both buildings and the mines themselves. Many of them are scattered throughout Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort.

A few weeks before the discovery in the Lady Morgan section of Deer Valley, meanwhile, a caved-in historic mine shaft was found in nearby Empire Canyon, outside resort property. United Park City Mines workers spent approximately one week filling the shaft with dirt and rocks.

The activity at Deer Valley and in Empire Canyon comes shortly after City Hall enacted a law requiring major landowners to canvass their acreage looking for historic mining sites. The law demands the landowners close any openings that are found. The closures are required by late 2015.

The Park City Council approved the law several years after an earlier series of high-profile episodes involving mining-era sites. In one of the cases, the top of a mine tunnel gave way as someone skied over the spot. The skier crashed and had to make his way out of a depression in the snow caused by the top of the tunnel giving way. In another case, a dog tumbled down a mine shaft before being rescued by firefighters.