PHOTOS: How Humans Can Trigger Earthquakes

PHOTOS: How Humans Can Trigger Earthquakes
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Coal Mining

Removing coal (as shown in an undated picture in Queensland, Australia) can contribute to earthquakes by reducing the pressure that squeezes together the two sides of a fault, making it slip more easily, a new study says.

Australia's most damaging earthquake, a magnitude 5.6 that struck the town of Newcastle, New South Wales, on December 28, 1989, can be linked to 200 years of coal mining, according to study author Christian D. Klose of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York.

But the primary culprit was probably the pumping of huge amounts of water out of the mines, which further destabilized the fault, Klose said.

"For each ton of coal produced, 4.3 times more water was extracted," Klose told National Geographic News in 2007.

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