Old Mine Causes House to Sink

Old Mine Causes House to Sink
By: Carly O'Keefe

Officials from the Illinois department of natural resources have determined it was in fact mine subsidence that caused a Williamson County home to sink. Neighbors say mine subsidence isn't uncommon in the area.

"All this area all through here is all undermined and it could fall in at any time," said Clifton Lawrence who lives down the street from the sunken home.

Lawrence says while he was sorry to see it happen to his neighbors home, sinking due to mine subsidence doesn't come as much of a surprise to him. In fact, years ago, it happened right in Lawrence's own back yard, twice.

"We've had two fall in here on this place here," Lawrence said.

"We typically look at 30 to 40 subsidence cases per year," said Robert Gibson of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Division of Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation.

Gibson is responsible for investigating and repairing the damage done to land when a mine subsides. He says the Williamson County home sunk a total of 34 inches, and expects it will sink a few more inches before the void below is filled with collapsed dirt.

"There's a great many subsidence events across Illinois, for over 100 years, mines have been part of our legacy, and subsidence is simply one of those issues we have to deal with," said Gibson.

The sunken home in Williamson County will be pulled out and relocated to more stable ground. Next the area will be filled in and made level. Gibson says to avoid an event of mine subsidence; individuals and city planners may want to research an area before building.

"The best factor is avoid known mine areas. In Illinois, there have been over 4,000 mines, and we're in the process of trying to get every mine map that we possibly can and eventually those will be available online. Now they can look at the Illinois Geological Survey," said Gibson.

The Illinois Geological survey web site   

offers maps for locating current and abandoned mines. Gibson says if a structure is built on top of a void where coal has been removed, it's just a matter of time before it subsides.

"My opinion for it is anywhere that's undermined it will subside, the question is when. It could be tonight, it could be 100 years from tonight," said Gibson.

Lawrence says twice is enough on his land, and hopes this is the last time he sees subsidence in his neighborhood.

"It's scary knowing that something like this could happen to anybody in the neighborhood here. We just hope and pray nothing falls in around here," Lawrence said.