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Date: July 7, 1998
Contacts: Cheryl Greenhouse, Media Relations Officer
Kristen Nye, Media Relations Assistant
(202) 334-2138; e-mail <>


Publication Announcement

Seismic Signals from Mining Operations
May Be Confused with Nuclear Blasts

Seismic signals are generated by natural events, such as earthquakes, and by nuclear explosions, such as the recent tests in India and Pakistan. They also are generated by chemical explosions associated with mining. The detection and processing of these signals form the major basis for monitoring compliance with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. However, the seismic magnitudes and characteristics of some mining-related explosions can be similar to those generated by small nuclear explosions, leading to potential misinterpretation of explosions from routine mining activities as treaty violations.

A new report from a National Research Council committee reviews a draft report by a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) working group that describes the nature of seismic signals from mining operations and possible measures that could help distinguish between seismic signals from legitimate mining operations and those from covert nuclear tests.

In its report, the DOE working group recommended that the mining industry consider reducing the size of their explosions so that they are not detectable on the treaty's International Monitoring System. Although the Research Council committee found this approach to be valid, it warned that DOE's proposal might greatly increase operating costs to the mining industry.

Instead, the Research Council committee recommended collecting data on the time and location of a few large blasts from each mine. This information, together with monitoring data, could greatly improve the confidence of the monitoring system that the seismic signals are originating from a mining explosion, rather than from a covert nuclear test, the committee said. The mining industry could help avert possible international on-site inspections of their mining operations by a one-time, voluntary submission of such blasting data to the federal agency tasked with compliance of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The National Research Council is the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. It is a private, non-profit institution that provides independent advice on science and technology issues under a congressional charter.

The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Non-Proliferation and National Security. A committee roster follows.

Read the full text of Seismic Signals from Mining Operations and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: Comment on a Department of Energy Working Group Reportfor free on the Web, as well as more than 1,800 other publications from the National Academies. Printed copies are available for purchase from the National Academy Press Web siteor at the mailing address in the letterhead; tel. (202) 334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242. Reporters may obtain a pre-publication copy from the Office of News and Public Information at the letterhead address (contacts listed above).

Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources
Board on Earth Sciences and Resources

Committee on Mine Seismicity and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

Thomas J. O'Neil (chair)
Executive Vice President for Operations
Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., and
Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Co. and
Cliffs Mining Co.

Thomas J. Ahrens (1)
W.M. Keck Professor of Geophysics
California Institute of Technology

Catherine T. Aimone-Martin
Professor and Chair
Department of Mineral and Environmental Engineering
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

Robert R. Blandford
Senior Scientist
Air Force Technical Applications Center
Arlington, Va.

Blair M. Gardner
Assistant General Counsel and Director of Government Affairs
Arch Coal Inc.
St. Louis

Michael E. Karmis
Professor and Chair
Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

William Leith
Research Geologist, and
Chief, Special Geologic Studies Group
U.S. Geological Survey
Reston, Va.

Jean-Michel M. Rendu(2)
Vice-President for Resources and Mine Planning
Newmont Gold Co.

John E. Wiegand
Vibronics Inc.
Evansville, Ind.

Zavis M. Zavodni
Chief Geotechnical Engineer
Kennecott Utah Copper
Salt Lake City


Thomas M. Usselman
Senior Staff Officer

(1) Member, National Academy of Sciences
(2) Member, National Academy of Engineering