The formation of sinkholes in karst mining areas in China and some methods of prevention

Zhou Wanfang


Mining of coal, lead and zinc, gold, and iron ore deposits in karst areas has been closely associated with sinkholes in China. Surface collapse causes an increase in mine water drainage and the possibility of major water inflow from karst aquifers, which threatens the environment in mining areas and endangers mine safety. The origin of such sinkholes is analyzed quantitatively in this paper and a combination of factors including soil weight, buoyancy, suffosion process and vacuum suction can contribute to surface subsidence. The key measures to prevent sinkholes in mining areas are to control the amount of mine drainage, reduce water-level fluctuation, seal off karst conduits and subsurface cavities in the overlying soil, prevent water inflow, and to increase gas pressure in the karst conduits.