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Experts: Colorado sinkholes caused by deserted mine shafts

Experts: Colorado sinkholes caused by deserted mine shafts

As defined by Colorado Geological Survey, a sinkhole occurs when "evaporite minerals dissolve in the presence of fresh water."   

According to UCCS geography and environmental studies professor Tom Huber, the Florida sinkhole that is believed to have claimed the life of one man was caused by water eroding limestone beneath the home.

"It leaves voids under the surface and when that void is vacated the strength is gone, the top of the soil collapses in on itself," said Huber.

Huber said this can happen in Colorado.  Cave of the Winds, outside of Colorado Springs, was carved using this process.  He said this process is uncommon.  Huber said of greater concern is mine subsidence, which can cause damage similar to sinkholes.

"We have upwards of 50 to 70 miles of coal mines and coal mine shafts that exist below ground and there are certainly houses in the Rockrimmon, Cragmor and Templeton Gap area that have experienced issues with coal subsidence," said Dave Futey, manager of the Western Museum of Mining and Industry.

Futey said there were up to 25 coal mines making up around 3,000 acres around Colorado Springs.  He said it is when these mines begin to deteriorate that the ground above the mine can "sink."

Huber said there has been some mitigation on the mines, decreasing the mine subsidence danger.  He explained the subsidence can happen suddenly, but it is typically more of a gradual process.

"If you start seeing your driveway breaking up or your foundation of your house cracking for no apparent reason and you're in one of those areas, then you probably want to get an engineer up to check it out," said Huber.

For more information on the influence of mines in Colorado, click here.

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