Subsidence, a universal process that occurs in response to the voids created by extracting solids or liquids from beneath the Earth's surface, is controlled by many factors including mining methods, depth of extraction, thickness of deposit, and topography, as well as the in situ properties of the rock mass above the deposit. The impacts of subsidence are potentially severe in terms of damage to surface utility lines and structures, changes in surface-water and ground-water conditions, and effects on vegetation and animals. Although subsidence cannot be eliminated, it can be reduced or controlled in areas where deformation of the ground surface would produce dangerous or costly effects.
Subsidence prediction is highly developed in Europe where there are comparatively uniform mining conditions and a long history of field measurements. Much of this mining has been carried out beneath crowded urban and industrial areas where accurate predictions have facilitated use of the surface and reduced undesirable impacts. Concerted efforts to understand subsidence processes in the United States are recent. Empirical methods of subsidence analysis and prediction based on local conditions seem better suited to the current state of knowledge of the varied geologic and topographic conditions in domestic coal mining regions than do theoretical/mathematical approaches. In order to develop broadly applicable subsidence prediction methods and models for the United States, more information is needed on magnitude and timing of ground movements and geologic properties.