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Geotechnical Engineering

 

A Brief History of the Interstate Technical Group
on Abandoned Underground Mines

A twelve foot section of Interstate Route 70 in Guernsey County, Ohio suddenly collapsed due to abandoned underground mine subsidence on March 5, 1995. This collapse resulted in near tragedy and the subsequent closure of this vital roadway for four months. Subsequent site investigations at three other locations on interstate routes resulted in emergency closures and remediation projects at two of those locations.

There are 4,138 known abandoned underground mines in Ohio with possibly an additional 2000 more. Ohio conceived the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Abandoned underground Mine Inventory and Risk Assessment process as a proactive method of locating and assessing the safety of the potentially thousands of sites underlying highways. This process is documented in a manual.

ODOT was in contact with several states and mine related agencies throughout the investigation and remediation of the above noted sites and the development of the inventory and risk assessment process. It was discovered that no states or other entities had a process to systematically locate and assess the safety of roadways underlain by abandoned underground mines.

Safety problems to the traveling public caused by sinkholes and slides created by abandoned underground mines are a growing concern as the mines in the United States deteriorate with age. State transportation agencies are faced with a potentially large number of sites that need to be addressed and a lack of knowledge and experience in dealing with these sites. The potential liability that these sites present can be significant. However, subsidences are occurring with more frequency as the mines deteriorate with age.

The work that has been performed by the state highway agencies to date has not been coordinated, and very little information has been shared. Little research has been done on methods of remediation, monitoring, and investigation.

In September 1997, ODOT hosted an Abandoned Underground Mine Workshop funded with Federal Highway Administration funding. This workshop was attended by nine states, one turnpike authority, and other state and federal agencies. The purpose of the workshop was to exchange mine related information and experiences. There was a lively exchange of information and all of the participants gained from the experiences of other states. The highway agencies at that workshop expressed a desire to continue cooperating and sharing information on this issue.

Consequently the Interstate Technical Group on Abandoned Underground Mines was conceived. This group is composed of technically oriented individuals responsible for remediation of underground mines beneath state highways. The goals of the group are to 1.) generate and disseminate information and 2.) obtain outside funding or cooperatively share in the costs of related mutually beneficial efforts. The expected benefits to accrue from participation in the group are the increased efficiency and effectiveness of each state's operations and enhanced safety of the traveling public.

A second workshop, hosted by the Missouri Department of Transportation and funded by the Federal Highway Administration, was held in St. Louis in August 1998. The focus of this workshop was on geophysical investigation methods. Presentations were made by faculty from the University of Missouri, consulting engineers, industry, and group members. A survey of the member states and a discussion at the second workshop showed that the states desired to continue cooperation as a group, overwhelmingly desired a web site to share information, and desired to meet every two years in workshops.

The purpose of the web site is to facilitate the sharing of information and efforts among the group members. This will be accomplished through the use of communication tools to allow members to ask and receive answers to questions and to announce demonstrations and other special activities, an interactive page for members to post the results of research and projects, and the posting of other useful information for the group. The information shared on this web site will be vital in advancing the state-of-the-art and state of knowledge in this area. It will assure the coordination of research and other efforts.

Another significant benefit of the web site is that it serves as the common uniting focal point for the group. Since the group overwhelmingly desires to keep itself informal, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to maintain unity without some common focal point.

The workshops are necessary to maintain contacts within the group and freely exchange information. Group discussions are held at each workshop to discuss the future direction of the group. In addition, presentations by members, academia, experts, and industry help to advance the state of knowledge among the group.

There is significant active sharing of information with mine related agencies, industry, and academia. In fact, other agencies, industry, and academia have contributed significantly to the workshops through presentations. However, the group members desire to limit group membership to agencies responsible for maintaining roadways underlain by abandoned mines. A large and diverse group of members will significantly enhance the sharing of information, the sharing of research efforts, and the subsequent advancement of the state-of-the-art in addressing abandoned underground mines beneath roadways.

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Updated: 04/07/2011
 

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