It is important to note that this death had no relationship whatsoever to OSM’s federal mining industry oversight partner MSHA.
A June 17, 2006 article written by Dennis B. Roddy and Steve Twedt in Pittsburgh’s Post-Gazette brought to light mapping issues with attempted rescue activities at Coal Co.'s Alma No. 1 Mine after the Jan. 19th accident that claimed the lives of two West Virginia miners. Ellery Hatfield and Donald I. Bragg became lost in the dense smoke and suffocated. In testimony given to an attorney representing the widow of Mr. Hatfield, Timmy Paul Morgan gave a statement that rescue team members complained that the map they were given to search for the missing men was inaccurate, showing doors and stoppings in places they did not exist. While inaccurate mapping was not a factor in causing this tragedy, the rescue operation was clearly impeded by poor geospatial information and the continued use of last century’s technology for locational information analysis, paper maps.
The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) and the state and tribal coal mining regulatory authorities (SRAs) implementing the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) regularly make decisions and perform actions in controlling the potential environmental impacts of surface coal mining operations. The majority of these actions consider the proximity of the proposed or existing coal mining operation to potentially affected adjacent areas and resources. Historically, these regulatory actions have been supported through the use of paper maps containing geographic features describing the coal mining operation and adjacent areas of interest.
Since 1988, the Technical Innovation and Professional Services (TIPS) program of OSM has promoted the use of Commercial-off-the-Shelf (COTS) computer software applications by the SRAs to model the potential impacts of coal mining operations. In recent years, these scientific software applications allowed coal mining features shown on mining operations maps to be converted (automated) to digital format for use in computer mapping applications. The resulting digital geospatial features can now be stored in standardized geographic databases for reuse in multiple ways. For many reasons, efforts have been in progress within individual SRAs to digitally acquire and use coal mining geospatial features in many of their SMCRA business processes.
In 2005, OSM initiated a new national effort to promote the standardized use of geospatial technology within the entire SMCRA community (Card and Meier, 2007),
At the TIPS Steering Committee meeting held in St. Louis on May 3-5, 2005, the TIPS Steering Committee and OSM Director Jeff Jarrett concurred on the formation of a National Coal Mining Geospatial Committee (NCMGC). The NCMGC was established in late FY 2005 to promote the use of geospatial technology for implementing SMCRA. The NCMGC is supported by TIPS and operates as a partnership between OSM and the states authorized to implement SMCRA. Committee members represent the geospatial technology interests of the states, tribes, and OSM