Pure and Applied Geophysics

, Volume 172, Issue 10, pp 2557–2570 | Cite as

Mining-Induced Stress Transfer and Its Relation to a \(\text{M}_w\) 1.9 Seismic Event in an Ultra-deep South African Gold Mine

  • Moritz Ziegler
  • Karsten Reiter
  • Oliver Heidbach
  • Arno Zang
  • Grzegorz Kwiatek
  • Dietrich Stromeyer
  • Torsten Dahm
  • Georg Dresen
  • Gerhard Hofmann


On 27 December 2007, a \(\text{M}_w\) 1.9 seismic event occurred within a dyke in the deep-level Mponeng Gold Mine, South Africa. From the seismological network of the mine and the one from the Japanese–German Underground Acoustic Emission Research in South Africa (JAGUARS) group, the hypocentral depth (3,509 m), focal mechanism and aftershock location were estimated. Since no mining activity took place in the days before the event, dynamic triggering due to blasting can be ruled out as the cause. To investigate the hypothesis that stress transfer, due to excavation of the gold reef, induced the event, we set up a small-scale \((450\times 300\times 310\;\text{m}^3)\) high-resolution three-dimensional (3D) geomechanical numerical model. The model consisted of the four different rock units present in the mine: quartzite (footwall), hard lava (hanging wall), conglomerate (gold reef) and diorite (dykes). The numerical solution was computed using a finite-element method with a discretised mesh of approximately \(10^6\) elements. The initial stress state of the model is in agreement with in situ data from a neighbouring mine, and the step-wise excavation was simulated by mass removal from the gold reef. The resulting 3D stress tensor and its changes due to mining were analysed based on the Coulomb failure stress changes on the fault plane of the event. The results show that the seismic event was induced regardless of how the Coulomb failure stress changes were calculated and of the uncertainties in the fault plane solution. We also used the model to assess the seismic hazard due to the excavation towards the dyke. The resulting curve of stress changes shows a significant increase in the last \({\sim}50\,\text{m}\) in front of the dyke, indicating that small changes in the mining progress towards the dyke have a substantial impact on the stress transfer.


Induced seismicity static stress change deep-level mining tabular mining Coulomb failure stress 3D geomechanical numerical model 



The authors would like to thank AngloGold Ashanti for kind permission to work with and publish data on the Mponeng Gold Mine, and the JAGUARS group for provision of data. The authors would like to thank two anonymous reviewers whose comments and suggestions helped to improve the manuscript. Furthermore, the authors would like to thank Lanru Jing for his comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. Figures 1, 2, 3 and 7 were generated with the Generic Mapping Tool (GMT) (Wessel et al. 2013). In Fig. 1, SRTM3 V2 topographic data were used. The beach-ball plot in Fig. 2 was realised with the software MoPaD ( by Krieger and Heimann (2012). Previously published preliminary results presented in a conference proceeding (Ziegler et al. 2014) contain some erroneous results and misinterpretations and should no longer be used.


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Moritz Ziegler
    • 1
    • 2
  • Karsten Reiter
    • 1
    • 2
  • Oliver Heidbach
    • 1
  • Arno Zang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Grzegorz Kwiatek
    • 1
  • Dietrich Stromeyer
    • 1
  • Torsten Dahm
    • 1
    • 2
  • Georg Dresen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gerhard Hofmann
    • 3
  1. 1.GFZ German Research Centre for GeosciencesPotsdamGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Earth and Environmental ScienceUniversity of PotsdamPotsdam-GolmGermany
  3. 3.AngloGold AshantiJohannesburgSouth Africa

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