Imagine finding a 30 foot sinkhole in your yard. Would you know what caused it or who to call for help? Most of the sinkholes in North Dakota are caused by underground mines caving in, and the PSC has an entire division dedicated to abandoned mine lands.
It can be hard to find property in North Dakota. “I guess if you’re in coal country, I’d do a lot of checking and background work if you’re going to purchase any property, and ask your neighbors or ask people that live around here,” said Bruce Johnson with the PSC Abandoned Mines Division.
Or ask the PSC
“One of our biggest functions is inventorying and getting information on abandoned coal mines so we know where subsidence is likely and we can keep people from developing over of that,” said Bill Dodd with the PSC Abandoned Mines Division.
So far, they’ve marked more than 1,900 abandoned mine sites throughout the state.
“We have a GIS that has just recently been made public where we have reports. A lot of these places where there have been reports of sinkholes and those types of things marked,” said PSC Commissioner Randy Christmann.
If you have a dangerous sinkhole, the state will fix it, thanks to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize how the program works. That it’s A, through the Public Service and B, it’s through a fee on coal our coal companies are paying into and other coal companies from around the country are paying into. And it goes to fix these problems from old mining operations,” Christmann said.
The PSC also works to prevent sinkholes, by filling mines before they collapse.
“We’re going to be doing a drilling and grouting project along this road to prevent sinkholes from opening up along the road surface which causes hazards for traffic,” said Joan Breiner with the PSC Abandoned Mines Division.
This project, along 60th Ave, just North of Highway 200 in Beulah, will cover about two miles and last about two months this summer.
Last month, the PSC got $3.5 million federal grant to eliminate hazards caused by the mines. In the past 30 years, they’ve spent $42 million on major projects, mainly trying to prevent sinkholes. The biggest one they had to fill was about 70 feet in diameter and depth, That one was out by Bowman.