Entering Hong Kong’s abandoned mines would pose a serious risk to public safety

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 April, 2017, 4:45pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 April, 2017, 10:23pm

I read with great interest the article in Post Magazine by Stuart Heaver (“Going underground”, March 12) about old mining activities in Hong Kong.

As a geologist, I am excited about any initiatives that create a greater awareness about geology and our magnificent landscape. There is so much to learn about old Hong Kong and a lot is hidden in our countryside, but on this occasion I felt very uneasy.

We are blessed by a natural environment with dramatic landscapes that reflect our “living geology”, which is freely available for all to experience.

However, drawing attention to abandoned mine sites may stimulate interest which is also fraught with danger.

Abandoned mines the world over are notoriously treacherous even for experienced well-equipped geologists – and are absolutely no place for the public. Old mines in the Hong Kong countryside are no exception. Rotting timber supports, rusting mine gear, roof and wall collapses, unstable tailings, hidden shafts, toxic gases and unpredictable water flows make old workings extremely hazardous and unforgiving places.

My fear is that a youthful sense of adventure may lead some to act rashly, or even disregard “Danger” and other warning signs and go underground.

The thought of the public entering old abandoned mines with little or no concept of the hazards is of great concern.

I would caution any member of the public about entering an old mine as a matter of public safety – the risks to self, loved ones and others are just not worth it. Even a minor accident in an abandoned mine may lead to tragic consequences.

Being unable to communicate above ground, isolated and possibly injured or worse, within a maze of tunnels and shafts in total blackness, is a terrifying prospect at best. Any rescuers would be exposed to great personal risk as well.

Geologists play a significant role in today’s society across a broad range of activities, from major infrastructure development, slope safety, environmental and resource management, to scientific research and academia. Most have a unique affinity with the landscape both seen and unseen. Helping increase community understanding about how geology enhances our daily lives is a long standing priority for many of us.

In this case, our message is clear – safety first, in our precious and exciting countryside.

Kevin Styles, chairman, Hong Kong Regional Group Geological Society of London