Geotechnical experts have urged caution over claims from a campaign group that the proposed Cumbrian coal mine could cause earthquakes. Before the start of the public inquiry into the mine – which began yesterday – campaign group Radiation Free Lakeland said that the development poses induced earthquake and subsidence risk. The group believes that “mining induced seismicity is likely to occur” at the coal mine, and also emphasised that nuclear waste site Sellafield is 8km away. “The majority of anthropogenic-related earthquakes were caused by coal mining and the decline in their numbers from the 1980s to the 2000s was concurrent with a decline in UK coal production,” Radiation Free Lakeland said. “The coal mine will induce earthquakes in the vicinity of the world’s riskiest nuclear site – that is a given – let’s hope and pray that the massive silence from NGOs over the nuclear elephant in the room does not give the government (who are employing the coal boss) wriggle room to approve the coal mine. “We urge all those speaking against the mine at the public inquiry to give at least a mention to the fact that this coal mine would mine out voids faster than any previous coal mine in UK history and would induce earthquakes and cause subsidence in the Irish Sea and Sellafield area.” Geotechnical specialist Clive Edmonds said that “in principle, mining can induce low magnitude, shallow depth earthquake activity”. “Such activity has been noted in many former coal field areas where several different depth coal seams underlying each other were extracted in close proximity to fault lines,” he said. However, Edmonds emphasised that “whether and to what degree” the Cumbrian coal mine will cause earthquake activity “will depend upon the specific mine design and development plan over time taking account of the known regional structural geology”.
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