Min­ing the depths

Group that ex­plores and videos aban­doned sites is trou­bling for some

Cape Breton Post - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky is TC Me­dia’s At­lantic re­gional colum­nist. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­sky@tc.tc — Twit­ter: @Wanger­sky. East­ern Pas­sages

They said no. Po­litely and anony­mously.

I can’t say I was sur­prised, but I was dis­ap­pointed. I’d hoped to tag along with AMENS — Aban­doned Mine Ex­plo­ration Nova Sco­tia — as they ex­plored and videoed a new aban­doned mine site in that prov­ince for their YouTube chan­nel.

In Nova Sco­tia, there are many old mines to choose from. When I was a kid in Hal­i­fax, our par­ents used to take us on “ex­pe­di­tions.” Records were kept in a log­book in the glove com­part­ment of our old van and more than once we ended up at the rem­nants of one or an­other of Nova Sco­tia’s old one- or two-per­son gold mines, dig­ging through tail­ings pails of bro­ken quartz.

Go to enough mine sites and, even­tu­ally, your eye even finds a way to spot likely re­mains in an area where there’s been min­ing – the round reg­u­lar­ity of tail­ings piles, the type of rock- face where old mines would punch adits ( hor­i­zon­tal tun­nels) into hardrock hill­sides. For me, a trip would have been both nos­tal­gia and ex­plo­ration, dis­guised as work.

But like I said, AMENS said no, and prob­a­bly with good rea­son.

Be­cause what they’re do­ing is trou­bling for some. They give di­rec­tions to aban­doned mines, show where en­trances are, video their ex­plo­rations of aban­doned mine work­ings and put the in­for­ma­tion up on the In­ter­net.

From a pro­duc­tion point of view, the videos are a lit­tle rough, but the group’s plan­ning clearly isn’t. They re­search old plans of mine work­ings, pro­vide clear warn­ings about mine dan­gers at the be­gin­nings of their episodes, and stress their un­der­ground ex­pe­ri­ence – “We are not kids look­ing for kicks. Keep in mind that our group is made up of re­spon­si­ble adults, each with spe­cific skills.”

They’re not break­ing and en­ter­ing – the mines they visit all have open, if dif­fi­cult, ac­cess.

Still, they are walk­ing a fine line in more ways than one. They want their YouTube ex­plo­ration videos to be more pop­u­lar, yet they don’t want to raise the ire of reg­u­la­tors to the point that the RCMP or the Nova Sco­tia Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources starts ac­tively try­ing to catch them tres­pass­ing on what may be pri­vate land. They dis­guise their voices in the au­dio, and blank out oc­ca­sional shots of faces.

These can be se­ri­ous ex­plo­rations: try 1,200 feet un­der­ground in a 1917 cop­per mine near Dorch­ester, N.B., or a cen- tury-old iron mine ex­plo­ration that re­quires a steep rap­pel down a loose rock­face. The videos get any­where from a few hun­dred views to as many as 4,000 vis­its. By the time they’re posted, though, the ex­plor­ers are long gone.

“If you are see­ing an episode, it means we are al­ready month(s) fin­ished with that site and never go­ing back.”

It’s a fine line that the selfie uni­verse walks of­ten: am­a­teur ex­plo­ration is more dan­ger­ous but far cheaper. Once you start obey­ing all the rules, things get ex­pen­sive.

When I was re­cently do­ing a story on divers ex­plor­ing the flooded Bell Is­land, NL, iron mine, I had to go through a full safety brief­ing on what to do – and not do – in the mine, in­clud­ing not touch­ing ceil­ings or walls. The part of the mine we were in was un­sta­ble and could po­ten­tially have rock col­lapses.

There was a ded­i­cated, paid safety of­fi­cer, sign-in pro­to­cols and planned es­cape routes, in­clud­ing prepa­ra­tion for full-dark­ness es­cape from the mine in the event of a to­tal power fail­ure. In other words, all kinds of bells and whis­tles, and their at­ten­dant costs.

It’s a far cry from a group of ex­pe­ri­enced mine ex­plor­ers and a sin­gle video cam­era mak­ing their way into un­known, but cal­cu­lated, haz­ards –haz­ards that other who fol­low their lead might not be in any way pre­pared for.

The irony is that, of­ten, the AMENS ex­plo­rations find, at the deep­est of points, graf­fiti and other trash that show oth­ers have gone just as far, with no equip­ment, long be­fore the cam­era even ar­rived.

A new sea­son of the video se­ries starts in May.

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