Virginia coal mines
Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract Microearthquake activity (impulsive, transient seismic events, with durations up to several seconds at a distance of 500 m, that exhibit a coda with a shift toward lower frequencies with increasing time) was monitored for a three-month period by a single seismograph sited directly above an undergound longwall mine in the coal-mining region of Buchanan County, Virginia, U.S.A. The purpose of this investigation was to determine if precursory increases in microseismicity prior to cavings (subsidence) of overburden in the mine were present and, if so, could they be detected by surface seismographic observations. The first two recording weeks were prior to the beginning of coal removal operations at the monitored mine. A comparision of the “before” and “after” levels of microearthquake occurrence indicated a sevenfold increase to about seven seismic events/hour that was attendant with the development of the time over the level of the background, non-coal-mining period seismicity. A total of over 15,000 microearthquakes were recorded during the monitoring period, most of which occurred during the actual coal-mining operations. The workday rate exceeded 30 seismic events/hour in contrast with the non-workday rate of about seven such events/hour. Rock and coal fracturing ahead of the mine plow are believed to be the primary cause of the majority of these very small seismic events. Cavings and rockbursts (violent eruptions that propel rock debris into the mine) also contributed to the total seismic activity. It appears that cavings, some of which were large enough to be felt on ground surface, are the primary source of the non-plowing related seismicity as larger free surface areas are opened underground. Any seismic activity premonitory to cavings, however, was effectively masked by the high workday rate. Thus, the use of surface seismic monitoring, in an attempt to document any increases of localized seismicity precursory to cavings, failed in this instance. The exact location of the mine and the survey dates are not given in this paper at the request of the mine operator.
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