U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration to Provide Grant to Establish Database to Archive Exact Location of Underground Mine Voids
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) already has started to scan maps in its repositories as well as those belonging to outside organizations. DEP also is creating a database of information on the locations of underground mine maps belonging to outside parties. The MSHA grant will pay for either or both of these efforts.
"We appreciate MSHA's recognition of the priority the Rendell Administration has attached to these efforts," said Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty. "Ensuring the safety of Pennsylvania miners is a chief concern. The federal funds will greatly assist us in our efforts to establish as thorough and complete an archive as possible, so we know where these underground mine voids are and can prevent future accidents like that at Quecreek Mine in July 2002. Our job is to help make sure Commonwealth miners can return home safely at the end of each working day, and this grant will help us to do that."
To date, DEP has scanned about 3,900 maps from its repositories and outside sources and logged 9,000 entries into the database of map locations and contact information. DEP can use that contact information to gain access to the maps during the permit application review process.
DEP also is creating a database for entering mine production data collected from hard-copy mining reports over the past 130 years to enable searches that will allow comparisons with known maps to get a more accurate picture of mine voids and mine workings.
The department is working with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to establish a central mine map repository and institute procedures to treat the maps as historical resources. These maps currently are scattered among both public and private holders.
In addition to its efforts to locate and catalogue mine maps, DEP is implementing procedural and policy changes to correct deficiencies in the department's policies uncovered by the Quecreek investigation. These policies include increasing the Bureau of Deep Mine Safety's role during the permit review process and giving BDMS the power to deny permits, require mine inspectors who are leaving DEP to turn over all their records and maps to DEP, and install a more rigorous permit review process to validate the location of abandoned mines.
MSHA is granting a total of $3.9 million to 13 states to establish an electronic system of digitizing underground maps for abandoned mines, helping to ensure miner safety nationwide.
For more information, visit the department's Web site at http://www.dep.state.pa.us/.
CONTACT: Karl Lasher
CONTACT: Karl Lasher, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental
Web site: http://www.state.pa.us/
Web site: http://www.dep.state.pa.us/