States to make digital maps for mines

Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration

The Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration awarded almost $4 million in grants to 13 states to help pay for systems of digitized underground maps of abandoned mines.

"States receiving these funds not only have a large number of mines, but have demonstrated a commitment to address the problem of inaccurate underground mine maps to prevent another Quecreek-type of situation," said Dave Lauriski, assistant labor secretary for mine safety and health, in a press release.

Lauriski was referring to a July 2002 incident in which nine Pennsylvania coal miners were trapped in an underground mine for four days.

"Missing or inaccurate mine maps, along with undetectable mine voids, presents a significant threat to the safety of working miners in America today," Lauriski said. "Fortunately, we now have a solid foundation for generating a solution to this problem."

Most maps are in paper form scattered among offices managed by mining companies and agencies at the federal, state and local level. Officials said they also have to separate good data from maps with questionable accuracy. Funding will allow states to digitize and provide electronic data to mine operators about the location of underground mines.

States receiving the funds include: $1.2 million to West Virginia; $1 million each to Kentucky and Pennsylvania; $317,000 to Virginia; $52,000 each to Ohio, Utah, Illinois and Indiana; $51,000 each to Colorado and Alabama; $50,000 each to Maryland and New Mexico; and $25,000 to New York.

In August 2003, the Mine Safety and Health Administration also distributed video public service announcements requesting copies of old mine maps from residents in those areas. The agency will pick up, copy and return such maps. For more information, call 1-888-753-9427.

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