Extraction of soluble minerals, whether by natural or man-induced processes, can result in localized land-surface subsidence and more rarely sinkhole formation. One process cited by many investigators is that uncontrolled dissolving of salt or other soluble evaporites can create or enlarge underground cavities, thereby increasing the span of the unsupported roof to the strength limit of the overlying rocks. Downwarping results when spans are exceeded, or collapse of the undermined roof leads to upward sloping or chimneying of the overburden rocks. If underground space is available for rock debris to collect, the void can migrate to the surface with the end result being surface subsidence or collapse.
In North America natural solution subsidence and collapse features in rocks ranging in age from Silurian to the present are found in evaporite terranes in the Great Plains from Saskatchewan in the north to Texas and New Mexico in the south, in the Great Lakes area, and in the southeastern States. Man-induced subsidence and collapse in evaporites are generally associated with conventional or solution mining, oilfield operations, and reservoir and dam construction, and can be especially hazardous in populated or built-up areas.