State creates database of abandoned mines

Pennsylvania's Environmental Protection Department is developing an electronic database of maps and information about abandoned mines to avoid a repeat of the Quecreek Mine disaster of July 2002.

Inaccurate information about a nearly abandoned mine contributed to the accident, in which nine miners were trapped in a flooded mine in Somerset County. The miners were rescued after three days of efforts broadcast on national television.

The state has asked engineers, academics, historical societies and others with mine maps or knowledge of mine sites to contribute data. Mine maps are often privately held and stored away forgotten in someone's attic. Or, as mine ownership has changed, maps of abandoned mines may not have followed, said Bill Bookshar, division chief for engineering services, at DEP's Bureau of Deep Mine Safety in Uniontown, Pa.

'If we get one map that prevents an accident, it's made a difference,' Bookshar said.

Mines have Access

DEP is housing the mine location information on a Microsoft Access database and eventually will publish it on its Deep Mine Web site for use by companies seeking mine permits. To visit the site, go to www.gcn.com and enter 168 in the GCN.com/box on the left side of the page.

DEP, which has a repository of over 5,000 maps, also has begun to digitize about 3,900 maps with a Vidar Systems Corp. scanner. The department will clean up dirt and fold lines with TrueInfo image enhancing software from Vidar of Herndon, Va., a maker of wide-format scanners for the computer-aided design, printing and mapping markets.

'The ideal would be to put them on the Web so they would be available to those who needed them,' Bookshar said.

The department also is creating a database to house mine production data collected from hard-copy mining reports over the past 130 years to enable searches that will allow comparisons with known maps. DEP now requires mine operators to provide evidence of the location of mine voids and their distance from active operations.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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