Mine subsidence is the sinking, cracking or settling of surface property as a result of an underground mine collapse. Mine subsidence damage can occur either gradually or suddenly, and can entail a variety of symptoms. In high mineral extraction methods like longwall mining, where underground rooms span several hundred feet and are completely robbed of coal, subsidence can be instant and devastating. In some instances, subsidence from longwall mining has been known to produce giant cracks several inches wide in home foundations and property, cave portions of homes and cause giant sinkholes and troughs to form. In some of those same instances, homes are condemned and families are forced to vacate their premises.
In room and pillar mining, where rooms are mined and coal “pillars” are left behind as support, mine subsidence is unpredictable and can occur decades after the mine has closed. Subsidence from room and pillar mines usually takes the form of cracks and sinkholes on surface properties. However, if the mining company “robs” the pillars, or fails to provide pillars that are sturdy enough to support the surface over time, surface support can collapse and create gaping holes, cracks and depressions in surface property.
Underground mining operations are also a threat to our water supply, natural streams, and lakes. Because mine subsidence can create cracks that permit water to escape into the earth’s crust, a subsidence event can cause water supply and natural water resources to disappear overnight. Additionally, contaminated water that collects inside the mine can be released during a subsidence event and contaminate adjacent drinking water wells and streams with poisonous water.
What Can I Do?
Oftentimes in these cases, property owners are approached by the mining companies and are convinced to settle for amounts significantly less than they would receive with representation. It has been our experience that settlement deals should never be struck with parties that share a conflicting interest without legal representation.
We are committed to investigating and pursing claims on behalf of property owners that have suffered significant property damage as a result of mine subsidence. Beasley Allen lawyers Rhon Jones and Parker Miller are handling subsidence cases for our firm. If you have questions, please contact us for a free consultation.