A mine map is a detailed explanation of the features, dangers, and makeup of a mine. Accurate mine mapping is incredibly important to worker safety, as incorrect or outdated maps can lead to fatal accidents. Mine maps are usually created through the collaboration of engineers and surveyors using visual readings and computer software to create the most accurate picture of a mine. Many mining regions in the 21st century are focused on gathering and restoring old maps, as well as updating mine information using new technology.
The features detailed in a mine map can include many pieces of information crucial to safety and safe navigation. A modern mine map will usually include the location, depth, and extent of all tunnels and shafts. It also may include information about air current flow, the presence and level of any water sources below ground, and the route of any escape tunnels. Most maps also include information about nearby surface infrastructure, such as roads, buildings, and railroad tracks. Other mines in the vicinity, whether abandoned or in use, are also clearly notated.
A mine map may also include information about intangible features, such as the border of a town or the extent of the mine's property line. This information is often used by city planners or surveyors to determine the impact of the mine on the surrounding area. If a mine is straddling a border between two counties, for instance, the map can show the extent of the incursion into each county, which may influence how much say each local county government has in the operation.
Without an accurate mine map, the risk of danger in these already dangerous locales can increase significantly. For instance, if a mine map does not include exact specifications about a nearby, abandoned tunnel that has been flooded, miners could accidentally open the abandoned tunnel, flooding their own mine. Since an inaccurate mine map can present an enormous danger to miners and people in surrounding areas, many governments require mines to provide regularly updated mine maps that adhere to high safety standards.
Since mining has been a profitable pursuit for centuries, many mining regions operate programs to locate, restore, and update older mine maps. As the availability and usage of accurate mapping systems is largely a 20th century development, most older maps need to be carefully studied and re-examined for potential errors. Some mining regions operate large mine map repositories, both to study the history of mining in the area, and to discover forgotten or abandoned mines for which information can be updated using modern mapping techniques.