Joburg Earthquake Linked To Gold Mine

An earthquake measuring at a magnitude of 3.5 on the local magnitude scale occurred around 6.30 am in Johannesburg and the surrounding areas. Experts say that extensive past mining activity around the Witwatersrand Basin may be the cause.


An earthquake measuring at a magnitude of 3.5 on the local magnitude scale occurred around 6.30 am in Johannesburg notably around the Benoni and Boksburg area.

Professor Ray Durrheim of the South African Research Chair in Exploration, Earthquake & Mining Seismology, says that extensive gold mining over the past century around the Witwatersrand Basin has left voids which under pressure from the rock above can cause such tremors and quakes.

With time, gravity causes the weight of rock above these voids, and it slowly creaks, and cracks, and closes, and so you get ruptures forming every year, and every now and then it slips and is felt.

On whether it was a tremor or an earthquake, Durrheims says that is really a matter of semantics as the word tremor is often used for something a bit smaller, but the word earthquake is the generic term for anything that is felt when the earth shakes.

He also pointed out that while this case was measured by the South African Council for Geoscience as that of 3.5. magnitude, there are different kinds of scales to measure earthquakes 

The Richter Scale strictly speaking, only applies to California. Here we use something similar to the Richter Scale but adapted it to your region taking into account the proximity to the earth - and that is called a local magnitude scale.

In addition to this, the United States Geological Survey also located the event and use a global network of seismographs called the Body Weight Magnitude Scale.

He added that although 90% of earthquakes that occur in Johannesburg are due to past mining activity, some earthquakes however can be related to natural phenomena such as the movement of tectonic plates. 


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