Missouri Geological Survey seeks assistance from the public to locate historic mine maps
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As part of a continuing effort to protect citizens and expand its existing database of abandoned underground coal mines, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources is seeking help from Missouri citizens and industry in locating historic maps of abandoned underground coal mines.
Recently, the program received funding from the Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining, to investigate, collect and scan maps of underground coal mines to make the national inventory of Missouri mine lands as complete as possible.
“Missouri was the first state west of the Mississippi to produce coal commercially, in 1840 and it is important that we know as much as possible about past underground operations for the safe development of our state,” said Joe Gillman, state geologist and Missouri Geological Survey director. “We presently have approximately 1,000 coal mine maps in our database. However, we believe maps may exist that would enable us to have a more robust database which would greatly benefit the public. Thanks to this grant from the Office of Surface Mining, we are now in a position to make a difference. So now, we’re asking for any information the public may have to assist us in this effort.”
Safety issues are the greatest concern regarding abandoned underground coal mines. They can cause subsidence or collapse at the ground surface and potentially damage homes and buildings, roads, and other infrastructure.
While Missouri has not experienced loss of life due to the collapse of an underground coal mine, in 2002, coal miners at the Quecreek Mine in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, accidentally dug into an abandoned, poorly documented mine, flooding the room and pillar mine with an estimated 50 million gallons of water. Most importantly, the accident trapped nine miners 240 feet underground in a cramped partially flooded chamber for more than three days. No one had accurate maps of the abandoned mine, thus the disaster ensued. Thankfully, there was no loss of life. Other instances of subsidence of unidentified abandoned underground mines have occurred in the United States. In 1995, a 12 foot section of Interstate Route 70 in Guernsey County, Ohio, suddenly collapsed due to abandoned underground mine subsidence. This collapse resulted in near tragedy and the subsequent closure of this vital roadway for four months.
Thousands of mines exist in Missouri
Many small, family operations
Since commercial production began in Missouri, thousands of mines were created and developed, primarily in the counties within the state’s coal region. Some activities were small, family operations whose maps may be treasured heirlooms that have been passed down to family members. Others may reside in county courthouses, libraries, historical societies and at other locations throughout the state. Most maps are hand drawn.
Donated or loaned maps are scanned at high resolution, color, archive quality images and entered into the department’s archive. The electronic file is also sent to the Pennsylvania-based Office of Surface Mining for inclusion in the National Mine Map Repository. Maps that are donated will be scanned, cataloged and housed at the department’s Rolla facility. Those loaned for scanning will be scanned, cataloged and returned to their owners.
If you have a map of an underground coal mine in Missouri and would like to participate in this national effort please contact project lead, Cheryl Seeger at 573-368-2100. The project is in effect through Sept. 30, 2011.