Saturday, April 17, 2010

Seismic Events Recorded Not Far From Mine Disaster Site

A map on the USGS Web site shows the location of a magnitude 3.4 earthquake that struck West Virgina April 4, mere days before a deadly methane gas explosion in a nearby mine.(USGS)
Two seismic events -- one natural, the other manmade -- occurred not far from a West Virginia coal mine just days before a suspected methane explosion left 25 miners dead and four missing.
An earthquake registering magnitude 3.4 occurred early Sunday morning about 100 miles northeast of Montcoal, W. Va., the location of the Upper Big Branch Mine, a massive coal mining operation where an explosion killed and trapped miners more than a mile below the surface on Monday.
An earthquake of that magnitude is strong enough to dislodge pockets of methane gas, though the distance from the mine suggests that it would not have affected the explosion, Julie Dutton, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey, told
"There's the definite possibility that that's what could have happened, but not from this earthquake," Dutton said. "This one was too far away and days separated. That makes a big difference."

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