State officials fear vandals may be taking markers from mines near Salt Lake City with the mistaken idea that they are sabotaging new mining - when in fact the signs mark dangerous abandoned mine sites.

Old mines in three canyons near Salt Lake City - Millcreek, Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood - - are being vandalized, say officials of the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining.The metal markers, which are numbered, were placed in the canyons by engineers trying to reclaim the mines. Over the past several years, injuries and deaths have occurred in abandoned mines in this state.

"The markers identify sites that pose a threat to public safety," said Mary Ann Wright of the state's Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program. "We're concerned people traveling in the back-country may think the markers indicate future mining, when in fact they indicate just the opposite."

Workers in the program have closed 158 mines and are working to close 300 more that pose dangers for hikers, skiers, off-road vehicle users and others. Reclamation workers sometimes hike long distances, packing equipment to remote sites.