The state is providing $1.65 million in grants to support mine mapping projects.
The Pennsylvania of Department of Environmental Protection has awarded the Mine Map Grants to seven institutions, including six Pennsylvania universities.
Amanda Witman, spokeswoman for the DEP, said the grant recipients will add mapping information to the already active Mine Map Atlas, an interactive compilation of mine maps across Pennsylvania.
“These seven institutions were chosen to preserve and protect very valuable mine maps,” Witman said. “Not only are they valuable from a historical perspective, but they’re also valuable from an engineering perspective, in that, they give us a glimpse of mines far beneath the surface.”
The grants recipients will process maps and data into electronic formats that can be used in a Geographic Information System, and will also work toward restoring and preserving mine maps, some of which date back to the 1800s.
The researchers will georeference 7,200 maps, digitize 3,100 maps, scan 26,900 maps and restore and preserve 259 maps.
The digital documents will then be uploaded to the DEP’s Mine Map Atlas, an online database that holds more than 15,000 mine maps. The atlas allows users to search and find if their home is above or near an underground mine.
There are currently 1 million homes in Pennsylvania that sit above underground mines. The average repair bill for mine subsidence damage is $50,000, but Witman said most Pennsylvania home insurance policies don’t include mine subsidence insurance.
Witman said making the maps accessible to construction crews allows them to make the proper adjustments when building on an area that houses an underground mine.
“In development of an area or building homes or a commercial business, it’s important to know what’s beneath the surface, so structures on top can be engineered appropriately.”
The Mine Map Grant Program is financed by coal mining license and permit fees and penalties, Mine Subsidence Insurance funds and the Acid Mine Drainage Abatement Fund.