In Fallout 76, abandoned mine shaft story-lines play an important role, yet beyond the video game, abandoned coal mine openings in West Virginia pose a real-world problem.
While many mine openings have been sealed or gated, historian and publisher David Sibray says abandoned mine openings are a concern for law enforcement in the Mountain State.
"Only last week someone in the coalfields region that's referred to as the Ash Heap in Fallout 76 may have been lost in the darkness," Sibray said.
"He entered a sealed mine not far from what's called 'Mount Blair' in the game, and who knows what might have become of him?"
Sibray said thieves who often enter mines in search of scrap metal can become easily lost in a darkness that can extend for miles beneath the mountains.
The presence of deadly "blackdamp," is, however, a chief concern in the mines of southern West Virginia, Sibray said.
"Blackdamp occurs where the normal mix of gasses necessary to sustain life have settled out of the mine, and, as a result, miners, and miscreants entering an abandoned mine, can quickly succumb, never having realized they were breathing an atmosphere in which oxygen had been depleted," he said.
Sibray is the publisher of West Virginia Explorer, a chief source for information about West Virginia featured in the Fallout 76 video game, which plays out in an alternate timeline after the state has been decimated by nuclear war.
Abandoned mine shaft 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 are locales featured in the game about which Fallout players are regularly researching, he said.
"Apart from the fact that few coal mines in what's known as the Ash Heap, that is the southern coalfields of West Virginia, are actually shaft mines, these abandoned mine openings are very real and fraught with danger," Sibray said.
"In some cases, as within the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, the openings have been barred to allow bats and other creatures to find habitat, but in all cases these openings should be avoided."
Intruders who enter abandoned mine shafts may at least be prosecuted for breaking and entering if they survive the experience at all, he said.
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