Call it a lie, if you like, but a lie is a sort of myth
and a myth is a sort of truth.—Edmond Rostand,
Cyrano de Bergerac
The first major earthquake recorded in Australian history rocked residents of Newcastle on December 28, 1989. Ten years later, on the other side of the planet, an earthquake hit Saarland, Germany. Separated by time and space, these anomalous quakes might have seemed completely unrelated. They weren’t.
Geophysicists have controversially identified a common trigger: coal mining. They point out that coal-mining operations can collapse land surfaces, divert waterways, and drain wetlands. Generations of mining can induce quakes that are now compromising previously seismically stable regions throughout the world. Newcastle’s earthquake led to deaths, injuries, and $3.5 billion in damage, more than the value of all of the coal ever extracted from the region.1 Nevertheless, earthquakes may rank among the lesser concerns of mining, processing, and burning this fuel.