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: National challenge of leaking mines dwarfs Colorado spill

Related Stories

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 ...

Scientists take aim at Four Corners methane mystery

April 8, 2015

Researchers from several institutions are in the Four Corners region of the U.S. Southwest with a suite of airborne and ground-based instruments, aiming to uncover reasons for a mysterious methane "hot spot" detected from ...

Four Corners methane hotspot points to coal-related sources

October 28, 2014

A large, persistent methane hot spot has existed over the Four Corners area of the U.S. Southwest for almost a decade, confirmed by remote regional-scale ground measurements of the gas by DOE's Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Electric-blue clouds appear over Antarctica

December 24, 2013

Data from NASA's AIM spacecraft show that noctilucent clouds are like a great "geophysical light bulb." They turn on every year in late spring, reaching almost full intensity over a period of no more than 5 to 10 days.

Recommended for you

Male seahorse and human pregnancies remarkably alike

September 1, 2015

Their pregnancies are carried by the males but, when it comes to breeding, seahorses have more in common with humans than previously thought, new research from the University of Sydney reveals.

Parasitized bees are self-medicating in the wild, study finds

September 1, 2015

Bumblebees infected with a common intestinal parasite are drawn to flowers whose nectar and pollen have a medicinal effect, a Dartmouth-led study shows. The findings suggest that plant chemistry could help combat the decline ...

How wind sculpted Earth's largest dust deposit

September 1, 2015

China's Loess Plateau was formed by wind alternately depositing dust or removing dust over the last 2.6 million years, according to a new report from University of Arizona geoscientists.

0 comments

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.