State Searching for Old Coal Mine Maps

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By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Jared Roberts

WILLIAMSON CO. --  The state is asking for help mapping out old coal mines.

About 50 coal mines are currently active in Illinois. However, thousands once operated in more than 70 counties.  All those abandoned mines can be a big hazard if they collapse. That's why the state is trying to document where they're located.
 
The miles of roads in Williamson County can be full of twists and turns, but new dips and holes are always a concern.
 
"You generally have a pretty good idea that there's something going on in the subsurface," said County Engineer Greg Smothers. 
 
Smothers knows that dealing with mine subsidence comes with the territory. The region has dozens of abandoned coal mines running along the surface and deep underground.
 
"You try to deal with them best you can," said Smothers. 
 
While some sinking areas are well-known, Smothers can't always predict where the next problems are going to pop up.
 
"You see them show up, rear their heads really, when you're in periods of heavy rainfall," said Smothers. 
 
Illinois has been home to coal mining for more than 160 years. Earlier this month, the state announced an updated map showing where the ground has been undermined.
 
You can view that map here. 
 
"If we can avoid these areas with our, in our city developments, we'll prevent damages to homes, and to offices, and even hospitals," said Robert Gibson. Gibson is the Emergency Section Supervisor for the Department of Mines and Minerals. 
     
However, the online map can't provide a complete picture. The Department of Mines and Minerals doesn't have all the information.
 
"There are roughly 5,000 mines that have operated in Illinois since the mid-1800s," said Gibson. "We have mine maps for roughly 3,000 or so of these mines."
 
The missing maps tend to be for tiny mining operations and could be in the hands of family members or collectors. That's why the state is asking people to let them know.
 
"We can look through them ourselves and tell them if it's a unique map for us," said Gibson. 
 
If you happen to have an old coal mine map, Gibson would like to hear from you. Gibson can be reached at (618) 650-3197 or rgibson@siue.edu.
 
You can either donate the map to the state archives or they can borrow the map to scan it into the system. 
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