Of the 1 million homes in Pennsylvania that sit above underground mines, one in 2,000 insured buildings are damaged by mine subsidence, costing an average of $50,000 per structure.
That’s according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which has launched an underground Mine Map Atlas, an online mapping system that allows the public to view underground mines across the state.
“Now, after spending 10 years of placing these mine maps in an online database, people, from their home, are now able to view the map online and print them and see if their home is possibly over an underground mine,” said DEP spokeswoman Lisa Kasianowitz.
The website allows users to measure distances from underground mines to a specific structure or property, which is beneficial for engineers, contractors and homeowners. It's also crucial when identifying homes and other buildings at risk of damage from mine subsidence, or ground movement caused by the collapse of old, abandoned mines.
The DEP is advising anyone whose home sits on or near an abandoned mine to purchase Mine Subsidence Insurance, something that typically isn’t included in homeowners’ insurance.
Kasianowitz said the maps are also useful for people interested in buying a home for the first time.
“When you live in parts, let’s say the northeast or southwest part of the state, it’s really a good idea to just jump on this website if you’re looking at an area and see what has historically happened there,” Kasianowitz said. “Not only is it good to know the history, it’s great to know if you plan on buying a home in that area so you can prepare yourself by purchasing additional insurance.”
The DEP has scanned 15,000 maps, with 40,000 that have yet to be added to the atlas.
Costing $51,541, the Pennsylvania Mine Map Atlas was created in collaboration with Penn State’s Pennsylvania Spatial Data Access Program.
The project was funded by the Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation’s general operations budget coming from fines, penalties, permits and licenses paid by the mining industry.