Keweenaw County Sheriff’s Office cautions anyone from entering sealed mine shafts

The Keweenaw County Sheriff's Office is cautioning anyone from entering sealed-off mine shafts...
The Keweenaw County Sheriff's Office is cautioning anyone from entering sealed-off mine shafts in the area, for their safety and the safety of first responders who would be sent in after them.(WLUC)
Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 9:25 PM EST
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EAGLE RIVER, Mich. (WLUC) - The Keweenaw County Sheriff’s Office is cautioning people against entering closed mine shafts.

This is after the sentencing of Brent Hiltunen and Ike Kinsinger, who were arrested in 2020 for illegally entering and taking minerals from a mine in Copper Falls Park near Eagle River.

They were both sentenced on Jan. 12 to 30 days in jail for one count each of breaking and entering.

The sheriff’s office says going into these closed-off areas is not only dangerous for trespassers but for others as well.

“It’s a public safety issue, not only for the individual but also for first responders that are coming out to try and rescue them,” said Keweenaw County Sheriff Curt Pennala. “We have had calls in the past where subjects have gotten stuck inside of a shaft and we’ve had to go out and rescue them.”

According to Pennala, the mines themselves are full of hazards, such as complete darkness and sudden drops.

“Some of the supporting beams in those tunnels are aged,” continued Pennala. “They might be fractured, so there’s a risk of collapse, and not to mention, some of the vertical shafts in the mines are hundreds of feet deep.”

Pennala said trespassing could also be hazardous to the health of bats living in the mines.

He said Keweenaw Search and Rescue is also looking into training for these situations.

“Recently, our search team has been having meetings, talking about possibly getting trained up for a confined space rescue for incidents like this that are continuing to be a problem,” he said.

He encourages anyone that wishes to explore a mine to book one of several mine tours offered in the Copper Country area.