The Environment Agency of Iceland is working to close off access to two caves in the Þeistareykjahraun lava field in North Iceland in order to protect their unique mineral formations, RÚV reports. Geologists have conducted extensive surveys and mapping of the cave system in order to ensure that they don’t miss any point of access to either cave and will be blocking off forty square metres [430 sq ft] in total.
There are 15 known caves in the Þeistareykjahraun lava field. One of those that is currently being closed off to public access is 2,500 years old and is filled with one-of-a-kind stalagmites and stalactites. The second cave was discovered only last winter but was plundered of many of its natural treasures shortly after making the news. These two caves are therefore being closed in order to ensure that no more damage is done to their unique mineral formations and that no more of these are removed from the site.
Stalagmites and stalactites are protected natural monuments in Iceland, and have been since 1974. It is illegal to break or damage these formations in any way.
Not everyone who visits the cave has intentions of damaging or removing the mineral formations, of course, but the nature preservation team isn’t going to take any chances. They’ve found ten access points to the caves that they are in the process of blocking off with metal fences and locks. The project is expected to cost ISK 2 – 3 million [$14,365 – $21,548; €12,262 – €18,394].