Local Experts: Mine Collapse Triggered Seismic Activity

08 September 2007 | 07:40 Code : 15192 Geoscience events
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With rescue operations suspended, many are wondering when and if efforts to.....

  With rescue operations suspended, many are wondering when and if efforts to find 11 trapped miners in Utah can resume safely. It remains a question that's difficult to answer.Experts are concluding the mountain above the Crandall Canyon mine is slowly crumbling, and new measures would have to be in place before any more rescuers are sent in. Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr., (R) Utah: "I, for one, as governor of the state, feel pretty strongly that we shouldn't let another person into the underground mine until we can guarantee their safety." UC Berkeley Professor of Applied Geophysic, James Rector, says that will be difficult to do. Prof. James Rector: "It's a very dangerous thing. I don't think that we know exactly what's going on in the mine right now, and where there may be collapses in the future. Whenever you have a collapse of a mine like this you're basically changing the stress distribution under ground, and that could create more stress in other areas, and as we saw today, cause another what they call a seismic bump that could essentially cause other parts of the mountain and the mine to become unstable in the future." This seismic bump may have been responsible for last night's collapse, but UC Berkeley researchers settled the question of whether an earthquake triggered the first mine collapse or whether the collapse itself registered on seismometers. Prof. James Rector: "I was fairly confident that it was the latter, and I think that's been borne out by some of the work that my colleagues, Doug Draeger and Sean Ford, have done." It could take more than a month to drill a rescue hole, and officials say they're looking for a safer way to tunnel underground. Prof. James Rector: "It would be very, very difficult to do that. I doubt given the complexity of the area that you can accurately characterize the stability, at least at this point." None of this can be very comforting for the families of the six miners still trapped more than 1,500 feet underground.

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