Michigan Abandoned Underground Mine Inventory Project
Updated April 1998
Prepared by Dr. Allan M. Johnson, Project Director & Director, Mineral Technology
Research Group, Department of Mining Engineering, Michigan Technological University,
Houghton, Michigan and Milton A. Gere Jr., Project Contract Administrator and Geologist,
Real Estate Division, Department of Natural Resources, Lansing, Michigan
A project to document abandoned underground mines in Michigan began when a $200,000
contract was awarded to Michigan Technological University (MTU) by the Michigan Department
of Natrural Resources (MDNR) in September of 1995.
The objectives of the project are to conduct an inventory, document, and map abandoned
underground mines in the State of Michigan and, based on field assessments, identify and
rank mines having unsafe conditions. In Michigan there are more than 700
closed underground mines and more than 2000 shafts. Copper and iron ore
mines in the western Upper Peninsula are most abundant, but there are also a smaller
number of non-metallic underground mines in the Lower Peninsula (coal, gypsum, salt).
Early work concentrated on computerizing information from mine maps to show the extent of
underground workings and the locations of shafts. The contract requires these data to be
compatible with MIRIS (Michigan Resource Information System --- Michigan's GIS
geographical information system). This phase ia approximately 90% complete
Additionaly, a standardized form to record uniform statistical data on each of the
mines has been designed. Data includes location, ore type, production, dates of
production, ownership, mining method used, number of shafts including depths, dimensions,
and other relevant data. These forms will be combined into county reports. This phase is
about 85% complete.
Lastly, field inspections are being made at each of the mines to ascertain the
condition of mine shafts relative to public safety. To facilitate this work, cooperation
is being sought from mining company personnel, county mine inspectors and other
knowledgeable individuals willing to contribute their expertise. This phase is about 20%
Information from field inspections will be used to determine which shafts should be
filled, capped, fenced or otherwise fixed to protect the public.
The final product will be a number of comprehensive reports on the abandoned
underground mines in Michigan on a county-by-county basis supplemented by the computerized
MIRIS data base that show mapped details of the extent of workings, shafts, and surface
features. These reports should be useful for mine inspectors, local planners and
developers and anyone interested in the rich mining heritage of Michigan.
Although not a requirement of the contract, attributes of the abandoned mines are also
being documented. Attributes include such things as the historical value of a mine site,
the potential value of waste rock or mine tailings, the possibility of utilizing water in
the flooded mine workings, the suitability of mines for bat hibernation or for specialized
agricultural purposes, utilizing mine workings for underground storage, and a host of
other potential social/economic uses.