Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Deep mining might increase Australia’s earthquake risks

about every five years there’s a potentially devastating quake of magnitude 6.0 or more. 

some scientists have suggested that mining might have been to blame in that case [Earthquake in Newcastle 28 December 1989,] …..Some experts think this [ deep-core mining] might be enough to destabilise pre-existing faults in the Earth’s crust, and to trigger an earthquake. Certainly, human activity – like large dams being filled – has been linked to quakes overseas….

Earthquakes in Australia, AUSTRALIAN GEOGRAPHIC BY:EMMA YOUNG | OCTOBER-6-2011 Earthquakes don’t only occur near our neighbours Japan and New Zealand – they’re common in Australia too  “……..Australia doesn’t sit on the edge of a tectonic plate. However, the Indo-Australian plate, at the centre of which our continent lies, is being pushed to the north-east at about 7cm per year. It’s colliding with the Eurasian, Philippine and Pacific plates, causing stress to build up in the 25km-thick upper crust. This build-up of pressure within the plate can cause earthquakes in Australia.

In fact, Australia has more quakes than other regions that sit in the middle of plates and are considered relatively stable, such as the eastern USA. “The level of seismicity does seem to be significantly higher here,” says Professor Phil Cummins, an expert on quakes at Geoscience Australia (GA) and the Australian National University’s Centre for Natural Hazards. “But no-one really knows why that is.”

According to recent research by GA, there’s been about one earthquake measuring magnitude 2.0 or greaterevery day in Australia during the past decade. “There are likely to be many more smaller earthquakes that we cannot locate because they’re not recorded on a sufficient number of seismograph stations,” says Clive Collins, a senior GA seismologist.

Western Australia is a quake hotspot, with more quakes than all the other states and territories combined. But the GA data show that Adelaide has the highest risk of any capital. It’s suffered more medium-sized quakes in the past 50 years than any other (including one that struck in March 1954, just before the visit of Queen Elizabeth II) – and that’s because it’s being squeezed sideways.
In regions around plate boundaries, it’s possible to predict roughly when quakes are likely to happen, as scientists know where to look for any build-up of stresses. “We can’t predict with an accuracy that would be valuable for evacuation or early warning,” says Phil, “but we can forecast pretty well that certain parts of the plate boundary might be more likely to experience an earthquake in the next 10-20 years than others.” But for regions that sit in the middle of a plate, like Australia, quakes can strike anywhere, making prediction practically impossible.

Thankfully, most of our quakes are small, and go unnoticed, except by seismologists. But tremors of the size that terrified the residents of Kalgoorlie last August happen about every 1-2 years, and about every five years there’s a potentially devastating quake of magnitude 6.0 or more. The biggest quake ever recorded in Australia was in 1941, at Meeberrie in WA, with an estimated  magnitude of 7.2 – but it struck a remote, largely unpopulated area.

Earthquake in Newcastle At 10.29am on 28 December 1989, Australia wasn’t so lucky. Thirteen people were killed and more than 160 injured after a magnitude 5.6 earthquake shook Newcastle, NSW. More than 35,000 homes, 147 schools and 3000 other buildings were damaged.

Rather than being a natural disaster, some scientists have suggested that mining might have been to blame in that case. During the past 200 years, the region around Newcastle has experienced five times more earthquakes of magnitude 5.0 or more than the rest of NSW combined, says Dr Christian Klose, formerly of Columbia University in New York and now senior research scientist at Think GeoHazards, based in that city. “And we know that over the last 200 years, we have mostly deep-core coalmining around Newcastle,” he says.

Some experts think this might be enough to destabilise pre-existing faults in the Earth’s crust, and to trigger an earthquake. Certainly, human activity – like large dams being filled – has been linked to quakes overseas….

http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/journal/earthquakes-in-australia-more-common-than-you-think.htm

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October 7, 2011 - Posted by | Olympic Dam, safety, South Australia | ,

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