People work in a mine for different reasons. Some excavate valuable minerals like silver and gold while others work for energy companies to mine for natural resources like oil and coal. Nonetheless, mining is dangerous work thanks to the possibility of seismic activity that could cause serious injury or death.
Seismic activity like an earthquake occurs because of a sudden breaking and shifting of rock under the surface. Some parts of the country are more prone to quakes than others. While South Dakota is not a state known for natural geologic activity like earthquakes, miners in the state still run a risk of injury if a quake destabilizes the structure of their mine.
The dangers of earthquakes
As OSHA explains, ground shifts are generally not the direct reason that people suffer injury in an earthquake. The majority of earthquake injuries happen because of walls that collapse or objects shaken loose from the quake, although some people do fall and suffer injury if they try to walk during the shaking.
The danger to miners is that an earthquake may cause a cave-in that kills or injures miners. A cave-in can also trap miners inside of a mine, insulating them in a place where they can run out of oxygen unless help arrives. Earthquakes can also damage gas and electric lines, exposing miners to deadly gases or fire. A sudden quake can also trigger a landslide that may trap, injure or kill people caught in it.
Earthquakes caused by mining activity
Natural earthquakes are not the only worry for miners. Blasting is often necessary in the course of mining. However, the use of explosives may destabilize a mine and lead to a cave-in. Blasting might also lead to coal dust or methane explosions. Sometimes the detonation of mine explosives creates a shifting of the ground that mimics a natural earthquake.
It is possible for mining companies to prevent some mining-induced quakes with the proper use of mining equipment. Nonetheless, miners expose themselves to real risk as part of their profession and may need compensation sustained from injuries caused by a mine quake.