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Are earthquakes more common in mining regions than they would otherwise be? e.g. is the frequency of earthquakes in those regions different when mining is occurring than when it is not?

I am interested in earthquakes generally, but also particularly interested in earthquakes strong enough to have damaging impacts (to life and infrastructure).

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  • $\begingroup$ As @CamiloRada mentioned in comment-form below, there could be a chance the question is asking about earthquakes w/ a stronger magnitude. My edit regards this theory, but if that is what you're asking for, please edit you're question so it states this. $\endgroup$ – Eevee Mar 12 '18 at 21:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Eevee: Both. I added that to the question. $\endgroup$ – naught101 Mar 13 '18 at 0:40
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Yep, mining can trigger earthquakes.

According to a Scientific American article:

We've been monitoring [The Geysers] since 1975. All the earthquakes we see there are [human] induced. When they move production into a new area, earthquakes start there, and when they stop production, the earthquakes stop.

This is talking about geothermal power. They create small little fractures, which cause tiny earthquakes. They then harness this power for electricity.

Earthquakes can also be caused by coal mining and other mining, according to this study:

Klose has identified more than 200 human-caused temblors, mostly in the past 60 years. "They were rare before World War II," he said.

Most were caused by mining, he said, but nearly a third came from reservoir construction.

Oil and gas production can also trigger earthquakes, he added.

Three of the biggest human-caused earthquakes of all time, he pointed out, occurred in Uzbekistan's Gazli natural gas field between 1976 and 1984 (map of Uzbekistan).

Another study also concluded this.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting. I wonder how often this kind of attribution can be made reliably. I remember a few years ago, there was a paper that came out claiming that the 1989 Newcastle Earthquake was triggered by mining. There was an industry backlash claiming that the research was wrong, as well as a couple of researchers backing them up. $\endgroup$ – naught101 Apr 16 '14 at 2:06
  • $\begingroup$ @naught101 Hmm, that would be interesting. You can't deny the people who are purposely causing small earthquakes... but the others, as you say, I'm not sure if they can be backed up. $\endgroup$ – hichris123 Apr 16 '14 at 2:23
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    $\begingroup$ Look at the USGS has been doing extensive studies on induced earthquakes, much of it around Oklahoma and Oil harvesting, and there is little doubt the results of those studies, the quakes are human induced. Similarly, Arizona is experiencing sink crevices with assumed localized quakes from displaced water tables and human activities. The activities of mining, oil and gas removal, water injection (fracking), creation of larger reservoirs, etc. are all capable and some have been demonstrated to clearly produce such activity. $\endgroup$ – dlb Sep 22 '16 at 20:48
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    $\begingroup$ P.S. the Oklahoma seismic region is not only radically increasing activity in the last few years, it is increasing magnitude of activity with quakes more frequently reaching moderate and damaging levels. About the only group that continues to deny these are induced quakes and constitute a growing hazard is the oil industry. A taste of the USGS's position: earthquake.usgs.gov/research/induced/ $\endgroup$ – dlb Sep 22 '16 at 20:51
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting new article adding to the evidence: nature.com/articles/… similar effects are produced by injection of oil wells waste water en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Oklahoma_earthquake $\endgroup$ – Camilo Rada Mar 23 at 15:16
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The Short Answer is Yes. The consensus is that humans can prematurely trigger earthquakes, and this paper in 1986's EPSL annual reviews seems to be in full support. There is also this paper which suggests that mining induced earthquakes are quite common. A third paper published in Science last year also suggests that hydraulic fracking can cause earthquakes. There are many more papers on this subject, easily found using google scholar, as it is contentious to both the public and scientists alike.

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The East Midlands region of the UK is currently experiencing small earthquakes that are believed to be related to mining activities. The British Geological Survey has a page about these events: New Ollerton Earthquake Activity.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Earth Science! While this answer may theoretically answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. $\endgroup$ – hichris123 May 7 '14 at 23:10
  • $\begingroup$ No problem. Starting to learn the StackEx etiquette! $\endgroup$ – seismo_steve May 8 '14 at 14:46
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Yes.

In addition to triggering natural earthquakes, (as pointed out by @hichris123) Mines can also be sources of artificial seismic activities due to mine collapses and/or explosives.

Miners will generally try their best to keep their mine shaft stable, but their methods aren't 100% accurate. Sometimes mining in an unstable area or with the lack of support to a mine will cause the shaft to collapse, killing anyone still in it. When this happens, there can be a chance that an earthquake could be felt from a nearby town or city.

Are earthquakes more common in mining regions than they would otherwise be?

While there can be earthquakes in mining regions due to other reasons, yes, they are. When a mine collapses, the releasing of the rocks can be so abrupt that kinetic energy is discharged in the form of a low-magnitude earthquake. This is also known as a form of induced seismicity, and earthquakes resulting from induced seismicity generally aren't that serious.

When you google 'earthquakes due to mining', the following blurb will appear:

The six miners and three rescuers that were killed in the magnitude-3.9 earthquake due to the collapse of the Crandall Coal mine are now memorialized at the site. ... The abrupt release of elastic strain in the rocks during a mine collapse discharges energy in the form of seismic waves.

So this is a good example of induced seismicity.

e.g. is the frequency of earthquakes in those regions different when mining is occurring than when it is not?

Since you mentioned mining regions, it will be assumed that a collapsing mine would be more of a common occurrence in a mining region than anywhere else. So yes, the difference would be that there are more seismic waves creating earthquakes in a mining region compared to you're average city, because less mining is occurring in a city that in a mountain. But when no mining is in progress an a mining region, there will be less human-induced earthquakes.

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    $\begingroup$ Good answer, but I think the question pointed to larger earthquakes, triggered by mining, more than small seismic events produced by mining activities (due to mine colapses or use of explosives). $\endgroup$ – Camilo Rada Mar 12 '18 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ @CamiloRada Maybe, but I just read what I could, did some research, typed and posted an answer, and sited my source(s). If it was implied, my bad. But if an edit needs to be made, one of us shall do so. Thanks for letting me know! :) $\endgroup$ – Eevee Mar 12 '18 at 20:48
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe you can set the answer as a complementary one to hichris123's Like starting with. "In addition to triggering natural earthquakes as pointed out by hichris123. Mines can also be the source of artificial seismic activities due to mine collapse, explosives......" and then go on with the nice answer and research you did. $\endgroup$ – Camilo Rada Mar 12 '18 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ @CamiloRada Okay, I'll do that right now. Thanks! :D $\endgroup$ – Eevee Mar 12 '18 at 20:53

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