Seismologists Study Mining-Induced Earthquakes

March 11, 2005

The Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, the premier scientific journal dedicated to earthquake research, has just published a trio of articles about earthquakes caused by underground coal mining in east-central Utah.
"We've studied how fairly shallow underground coal mining causes earthquakes that, depending on their size, might pose a ground-shaking hazard to nearby surface structures," said Dr. Walter Arabasz, director of the University of Utah Seismograph Stations and one of the principal researchers for the papers.

Dr. Art McGarr, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey and another of the researchers, added, "Anybody could take our results and apply them to a comparable situation anywhere in the world."

Arabasz, McGarr and others performed their studies in Emery County, Utah, near the Cottonwood coal tract, where underground coal mining is proposed. As planned, mining within the Cottonwood tract could extend to within about 1 kilometer [0.6 miles] of the 58-meter-high [190-foot-tall] earthfill dam at Joes Valley Reservoir. The key question: How close to the dam should future underground mining be allowed?

To help decision-makers answer the question, the scientists monitored earthquakes induced in the neighboring Trail Mountain Mine, a longwall mining operation about 0.5 kilometers [0.3 miles] underground and 3-7 kilometers [1.9 to 4.3 miles] from the dam. They recorded 1,913 earthquakes and developed ground-motion prediction relations based on distance and earthquake size.

One of the researchers' conclusions is that mining within the Cottonwood tract might cause a maximum earthquake of magnitude 3.9. In 2000, a magnitude 4.2 mining-induced earthquake at the Willow Creek mine about 50 kilometers [31 miles] to the north caused rock falls that temporarily disrupted a highway and a rail line.

The research is the first attempt at ground-motion prediction for low-magnitude, short-distance events related to coal mining, McGarr said.

The three recently published papers are:

-- "Coal Mining Seismicity and Ground-Shaking Hazard: A Case Study in the Trail Mountain Area, Emery County, Utah," by W. J. Arabasz, S. J. Nava, M. K. McCarter, K. L. Pankow, J. C. Pechmann, J. Ake, and A. McGarr;

-- "Development of Ground-Motion Prediction Equations Relevant to Shallow Mining-Induced Seismicity in the Trail Mountain Area, Emery County, Utah," by A. McGarr and J. B. Fletcher; and

-- "Moment Tensor Inversion of Ground Motion from Mining-Induced Earthquakes, Trail Mountain, Utah," by J. B. Fletcher and A. McGarr.

Source: University of Utah

Explore further: EPA mine spill was preventable, points to broader problem

Related Stories

EPA mine spill was preventable, points to broader problem

October 23, 2015

Investigators are blaming the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a 3 million-gallon wastewater spill from a Colorado gold mine, saying an agency cleanup crew rushed its work, failed to consider the complex engineering ...

National challenge of leaking mines dwarfs Colorado spill

August 14, 2015

It will take many years and many millions of dollars simply to manage and not even remove the toxic wastewater from an abandoned mine that unleashed a 100-mile-long torrent of heavy metals into Western rivers and has likely ...

Deadly Mine 'Bump' was Recorded as Seismic Event

August 17, 2007

The University of Utah Seismograph Stations recorded a magnitude-1.6 seismic event at the time of a Thursday, Aug. 16 "bump" that killed and injured rescuers at a Utah coal mine where six miners were trapped by an Aug. 6 ...

Fatal mine collapse covered 50 acres

June 2, 2008

New calculations show that the deadly Crandall Canyon mine collapse – which registered as a magnitude-3.9 earthquake – began near where miners were excavating coal and quickly grew to a 50-acre cave-in, University of ...

Scientists develop new approach to mine disasters

March 26, 2009

( -- University of Utah scientists devised a new way to find miners trapped by cave-ins. The method involves installing iron plates and sledgehammers at regular intervals inside mines, and sensitive listening ...

Recommended for you

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...

New 'self-healing' gel makes electronics more flexible

November 25, 2015

Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a first-of-its-kind self-healing gel that repairs and connects electronic circuits, creating opportunities to advance the ...

Aging star's weight loss secret revealed

November 25, 2015

A team of astronomers using ESO's Very Large Telescope has captured the most detailed images ever of the hypergiant star VY Canis Majoris. These observations show how the unexpectedly large size of the particles of dust surrounding ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.