Seismologists Study Mining-Induced Earthquakes

Mar 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: SpaceX ship leaves ISS for Earth loaded with lab results

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Electric-blue clouds appear over Antarctica

Dec 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 ...

Estonia eager to teach world about oil shale

May 30, 2013

Home to the creators of Skype and the first country to use online voting, Estonia relishes its image as a technological pioneer. But the tiny East European country's most far-reaching economic achievement ...

Mine disaster: Hundreds of aftershocks

Apr 19, 2013

A new University of Utah study has identified hundreds of previously unrecognized small aftershocks that happened after Utah's deadly Crandall Canyon mine collapse in 2007. The aftershocks suggest the collapse ...

Meteor smoke makes strange clouds

Aug 08, 2012

Anyone who's ever seen a noctilucent cloud or “NLC” would agree: They look alien. The electric-blue ripples and pale tendrils of NLCs reaching across the night sky resemble something from another ...

Potomac tops conservation group's list of endangered rivers

May 21, 2012

The Potomac River is much healthier today than it was 40 years ago, when its chemical-laced, sewage-laden waters helped inspire the 1972 Clean Water Act. But the Washington waterway still has a long way to go, as suggested ...

Recommended for you

Hinode satellite captures X-ray footage of solar eclipse

19 hours ago

The moon passed between the Earth and the sun on Thursday, Oct. 23. While avid stargazers in North America looked up to watch the spectacle, the best vantage point was several hundred miles above the North ...

User comments : 0