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Mine Mapping Receives Funding from State System

Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Mine Mapping, Archival Procedures and Safety received a $172,230 grant from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

The grant will be used to continue the work of the institute, which archives, digitally records and geographically references large-format historical coal mine maps. Based on this work, institute personnel will work to initiate new mine safety protocols.

The IUP institute, based in the geography and regional planning department, is directed by Dr. John Benhart, geography and regional planning professor, and co-directed by Phil Zorich, director of IUP Libraries, and Dr. Lon Ferguson, chairman of the safety sciences department.

“These funds will help us to take the institute to the next level,” Benhart said. “Our ultimate goal is to create an online, searchable database of all of our digital mine maps that will help to improve the safety of future coal mining in Pennsylvania by providing needed information about abandoned or unknown mines.”

Funding will be used for additional personnel, including graduate and undergraduate students, to continue scanning existing maps and developing databases.

In 1998, IUP received the records of the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal Co. from Consol Energy. The donation included not only artifacts and files, but the mine maps depicting the location of mines and coal seams throughout the region and financial support to help organize the collection. R&P Coal Co., in operation from 1891 to 1997, was purchased by Consol in 1998.

In 2005, IUP received a $125,000 Cruse digital camera from the Pennsylvania Bureau of Deep Mine Safety to digitize large format mine maps in the R&P collection as well as other large-format maps from across Pennsylvania.

At that time, IUP received a gift of $36,777 from Rosebud Mining Co. of Kittanning and a grant of $15,000 from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to help organize and process the R&P collection at IUP.

In total, IUP has approximately 300 hard copy, large-format mine maps and around 500 digital mine maps in its collection and database, reflecting more than a century of Pennsylvania coal mining history.

In addition to supporting mine safety, community planning, emergency responders and mine subsidence initiatives in the future, the institute is providing training and experience in the high-growth, high-demand geospatial field for geography and regional planning students, Benhart said.

“This project embodies what we should be doing at a public institution of higher learning: contributing to communities and regions while providing our students with opportunities to learn how concepts, science and technology really work.”

Officials are planning for fall 2009 an exhibit at the University Museum titled “Pennsylvania Coal Culture, Featuring the R&P Coal Collection.”

More information about the institute is available at the Institute for Mine Mapping, Archival Procedures, and Safety.

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