Utah closes off 56 abandoned mines near Eureka, including where 2 bodies were found

Jul 12, 2023, 6:50 AM

Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining crews work to close Tintic Standard Mine No. 2 in Utah County ...

Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining crews work to close Tintic Standard Mine No. 2 in Utah County on May 15. The mine is one of 56 the division recently closed off, state mining officials said Tuesday. (Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining)

(Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining)

EUREKA, Utah — Utah mining crews recently completed a project that closed off dozens of abandoned mines across southwestern Utah County, including a mine shaft where the bodies of a Utah couple were recovered five years ago.

The project focused on closing off abandoned mines on private land near Eureka, located just outside of Utah County. In all, crews capped 56 abandoned mine openings within the once-bustling Tintic Mining District, according to the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining.

All of the mines were “easily accessible” and close enough to popular off-highway vehicle trails, which caused possible safety concerns, said Steve Fluke, manager of the division’s Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program.

“Safeguarding these mines ensures that future risks are minimized or eliminated, improving public safety,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

The most notable of the newly closed mines is Tintic Standard Mine No. 2, where the bodies of Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson and Riley Powell were recovered in 2018 after they had gone missing months prior. Jerrod Baum was convicted of murder in the case last year and sentenced to four consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

A permanent memorial was erected to honor Otteson and Powell just outside of the mine, where people have left photos, stuffed animals, flowers and other objects over the years.

Amanda Hunt, right, visits a permanent memorial for her niece, Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson, and Otteson’s boyfriend, Riley Powell, near the Tintic Standard Mine No. 2 near Eureka, Juab County, on Feb. 4, 2021. (Steve Griffin/Deseret News)

The district was a popular mining hub during the late 1800s and early 1900s. It produced a “substantial” amount of lead, silver, gold, copper and zinc, the mining database Mindat.org wrote.

Safety issues arose after the mine became abandoned.

The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining announced a day before Baum was convicted that it would close off Tintic Standard Mine No. 2 as part of a larger project. Fluke said crews used backfills, rebar grates, walls and polyurethane foam to close off the openings while also protecting “features of historical significance” and animal habitats.

The Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program has closed about 7,000 openings since it was created 40 years ago. However, state mining officials said Tuesday that there are still an estimated 17,000 abandoned mine openings located across Utah.

Almost all of these were abandoned before the 1970s. Utah legislators passed a law in 1975 that makes it illegal for companies to abandon mines without reclamation work first.

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Utah closes off 56 abandoned mines near Eureka, including where 2 bodies were found