Southern Oregon University environmental studies faculty and students toured the historic Benton Mine in Merlin on April 11. Geology professor Jad D'Allura and mine director Dave Brown provided 13 students and College of Arts and Sciences dean Josie Wilson an in-depth tour of the mining operation.

The students saw an underground mining operation first-hand, including the explosives used to carve new tunnels, the current blasting sites, the drilling machinery and the closed tunnels, which are filled with rock debris.

The all-day field trip included lunch with Dutch Gold engineer Terry Mulvihill and consultant geologist Dave Hembree. The lunch period provided SOU students the opportunity to ask questions regarding the mining industry and environmentally sound mining practices.

"The Benton Mine field trip was a great opportunity for environmental studies and geology students to see practical career options," said D'Allura. "They also had the chance to see mining with low environmental impact."

Benton Mill, which is still producing gold, was originally founded in 1893. The mine drains into the Whiskey Creek tributary, which feeds the Rogue River.