Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Austrian rock slip forces village evacuation


AUSTRIAN ENGINEERS are assessing the stability of a rockface after landslides in July forced 250 people from their homes on the outskirts of Schwaz, near Innsbruck.

Around 30,000m3 of limestone has broken away from the 80m high Eiblschofen since the hamlet of Ried was evacuated following the initial fall of around 50m3 of rock.

Dolomite mining on the mountain may have been the cause of the failure, although head of the Faculty of Mining Engineering at the University of Leoben Professor Horst Wagner said: '[The role of] mining activity is a matter of speculation at this time', adding there was circumstantial evidence that groundwater movement may have played a part in the collapse.

Up until the time of the incident, when mining stopped, dolomite was being extracted at the rate of 120,000t a year from inclined conical stopes up to 150m high. One stope, within 300m of the rock face, was abandoned in 1993 following an underground collapse. More recent mining has been on a smaller working face just 30m square. The stopes are partly packed with residue.

Assessment of water movement in the mountain is complicated by up to 1,000km of adits driven in pursuit of silver, copper and zinc for at least 500 years until the 1920s.

Seismic monitoring revealed activity between 0 and 0.2 on the Richter scale in March and June this year. Observations coincided with an unusual warm wind from Italy causing an early snow thaw and with very heavy rainfall that swept across Europe. 'Prior to the fall there was an increase in low frequency activity but the centre could not be located,' said Wagner.

Work has now started on the construction of three protective walls above Ried. The upper of the two containment walls will be 15m high and have a volume of 70,000m3. A lower 'deflecting' wall will have a volume of 7,000m3.

When the walls are finished next month, a decision will be made on whether to allow villagers to return to their homes.

Nigel Glass in Vienna

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.