Unimin gives underground mine to Organization for Bat Conservation

Kerry Clines

September 12, 2017

Employees looking at bat friendly door at a cave
Bat-friendly gates allow bats to enter the mine, but prevent humans from entering.

On August 30, 2017, Unimin Corp. on August 30th transferred the rights to its underground Magazine Mine in Alexander County, Ill., to the Organization for Bat Conservation, according to the Illinois Association of Aggregate Producers’ (IAAP) Update newsletter. The mine is now the home of several thousand bats, including the endangered Indiana Bat, Little Brown Bat, and Long-Eared Myotis Bat.

Do not enter sign for a cave

“We reached out to bat conservation experts to discuss preservation and enhancement of the naturally formed habitat and engaged volunteers who helped us stabilize the main entrance and install a bat-friendly gate,” said Seibert Cowley, Unimin regional general manager, in the newsletter. “Little did we know then that the Indiana Bat population in the mine would grow from 100 to an estimated 40,000 or more, in just a few years.”

In the past, Unimin has provided guided educational tours for zoology students and hosted speakers who lead interpretive talks about the bats. Now, the rights to bat sanctuary have been transferred to contribute to the continuing education and environmental study of bat populations in their natural habitats.

“The transfer of the Magazine Mine is a huge step in protecting the rare and endangered Indiana Bat,” said Rob Mies, executive director for the Organization for Bat Conservation. “We are proud to partner with Unimin in this endeavor and excited to see what secrets the mine may hold for the future of bat research.”

The organization plans to survey the mine this winter to determine the number of bats hibernating inside and to see if White Nose Syndrome is present. The Indiana Bat, a social species that gathers in large numbers to hibernate, is endangered partially due to loss of habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists threats as “modifications to caves, mines, and surrounding areas that change airflow and alter microclimate in hibernacula [winter hibernation site].”

According to the newsletter, Joe Kath, a biologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, 300 to 500 bats can cluster in 1 square foot of the mine’s ceiling to hibernate, and he has witnessed clusters as large as 6 square feet. This winter, 12 percent of the known population of Indiana Bats is expected to hibernate in the mine.

“While the species is still declining in North America overall, the Magazine Mine is swarming with nocturnal life,” said Campbell Jones, Unimin president and CEO, according to the newsletter. “We are pleased that Rob Mies and the Organization for Bat Conservation will continue to educate and inspire people about the importance of conservation and respect for the environment.” 

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