The Western states of the US have a stunning amount of remains from small mining adventures. Just like one could expect from a typical Wild-West type of venture, they tend to expose a mix of uncoordinated ad-hoc and small-scale, with a high sense of opportunism and speed. It is almost unimaginable to consider the extreme hardships with this dangerous and back-breaking work, seeded scorching sun, lack of water and lack of infrastructure.
With a classic large-scale mining operation in mind, one could see this as having a democratic element to it, where anyone could just start to hack into the rock and see what they could find. However, it’s quite obvious that most of these never made it past a few couple of holes and some piles of waste rock. It’s not hard to imagine various forms of clashes between miners, where disputes over rights were settled with a gunfight rather than in court.
It is fascinating to see how relatively intact these remains are, which is obviously is due to the extremely dry climate. Even small left-overs, such as tin cans and nails lay scattered around and even wooden structures are amazingly well preserved. Stuff that in an all-season environment would have perished a long time ago, leaving nothing behind.
A darker side of these amazing remains is the environmental issue with countless number of toxic waste, slowly releasing heavy metals and other nasty things. Although most of these sites are very remote and far from populated areas, the hazards of open pits and unsafe drifts is also a concern for public safety.