Underground Mine Map Initiative Catalogs Old Mine Maps, Nov. 20, 2006

by Jane Love and L. Greer Price

SOCORRO, N.M., Nov. 20, 2006 -- In September 2006, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) awarded the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources (NMBGMR) a competitive grant of $42,000 to complete the cataloging and scanning of historic coal mine maps of New Mexico.

The NMBGMR serves as the repository for historic underground mine maps in the state and has a collection of more than 400 underground coal mine maps.

As part of this project, the NMBGMR is asking New Mexicans who possess old maps or who are aware of old map collections to contact Maureen Wilks, Geological Librarian at NMBGMR at the address listed at the end of this article.

Dr. Peter Scholle, Director of the NMBGMR said, “Recent coal mine disasters (the 2002 Quecreek mine flooding in Pennsylvania and the 2006 Sago mine disaster in West Virginia, in particular) have demonstrated both the need for accurate mine maps and the ability to get those maps into the hands of rescue workers quickly. This project, to catalog and locate geographic coordinates of existing mine maps, will allow instantaneous online retrieval of such maps at any time of the day or night and so represents a significant step forward in mine safety."

The cataloging of mine maps began in 2004 when the NMBGMR, in collaboration with the Mining and Minerals Division of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, and the State Mine Inspectors Office, was awarded a competitive grant of $50,000 from the Mine Safety and Health Administration. More than 250 coal mine maps were cataloged and 200 scanned.

The success of this phase of the map cataloging project led to the current award of $42,000 to complete the project, which involves:

  • Cataloging the remaining coal mine maps at the bureau (~100).
  • Cleaning up the scans of those maps already scanned (~100). Scanning and cleaning up the images of the remaining coal maps (~100).
  • Actively seeking out additional mine maps from public institutions, private companies, conservation societies, and other sources. Especially important are the coal mines in the Raton Basin; there are many inactive underground mines in this area, and currently the NMBGMR has very few mine maps for the Raton Basin. Coalbed methane development along with the potential for active underground coal mines has become a high priority in the Raton Basin, and there is a definite need to know the extent and location of the underground mines for the safe development of these resources.

Contact: Maureen Wilks, Geological Librarian, New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, 801 Leroy Place, Socorro, N.M. 87801
Tel: (505) 835-5322