Idaho Geological Survey tool showcases over a century of statewide mining documents

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MOSCOW — Over 10,000 unique and unpublished mine-related documents are being made available for free download through the Idaho Geological Survey’s mines interactive web map application.

The collection of documents — dating back to 1872 and representing about 35 percent of the state’s mines and prospects — includes underground mine maps, geologic reports, correspondence, photographs, drill-hole logs and assays. They are acquired primarily through donations from industry groups, retired geologists, neighboring state surveys and the public.

IGS, a public service and research arm of the University of Idaho, developed and maintains the mines app. Besides access to downloads, the app features locations, attributes, and references for nearly 9,000 mineral extraction and exploration sites across Idaho. Other features include a choice of basemaps or imagery, a Public Land Survey System (township, range, section) grid layer, user-defined searches, and downloadable search and reference results.

Reed Lewis, an IGS geologist, leads the effort to preserve these documents and make them widely available to the public through the mines app. Christopher Tate, an IGS database manager who is involved with mines app development and co-author of its corresponding publication, “DD-1: Database of the Mines and Prospects of Idaho,” said the app is a powerful research tool used by state and federal agencies, industry professionals, students, educators, landowners, archaeologists and others interested in Idaho’s mining history.

The effort to process and scan the IGS collection is funded in part by Idaho Department of Lands and the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program. About half of the existing collection is now available online with new scans added frequently.

“I’m rarely surprised anymore by the wide variety of people who use our app,” Tate said, “but often surprised by the number of people I talk to that I’d expect to be using it, and have no idea it exists. For instance, an archaeologist contacted me recently, the app having been brought to her attention by the Idaho Historical Society. A U.S. Forest Service ranger in charge of closing dangerous mines on public lands immediately bookmarked it in ‘Favorites’ in his web browser. Regular users include the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, exploration geologists, recreational prospectors students, and historians.”

Planned improvements to the app include incorporating IGS annual Idaho mining development review data, videos taken during an Abandoned Mine Lands survey conducted from the 1980s through early 2000s, and outside links to references.

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