Discrimination between quarry blasts and earthquakes has gained importance due to signature of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. In this context, large chemical explosions are significant. In the routine analysis of data from local seismograph networks, discrimination between smaller blasts and micro-earthquakes is not always clear. Many quarries are in operation and blasts far outnumber natural earthquakes in the highly industrialized northern Rhine area.
We compiled a list of active quarries in the Northern Rhine Area and mapped their locations. We then created a database from a questionnaire sent out to all quarries on the list. From the 33% of questionnaires that were returned, we discerned some representative values for the main blasting parameters and explosive consumption. In the study area of 72,000 km2, approx. 21,000 blasts are fired per year (80 per working day). Most of the blasts (72%) have total explosive charges between 400 and 4500 kg. Shots with charges above 10 tons are rare (20-30 per year). Some 80% of the blasts are ripple-fired with a nominal firing time interval of 20 ms.
Based on empirical amplitude vs. distance curves from vibration control measurements, a relation between maximum charge weight per delay time, L (kg), and a ‘quarry blast’ magnitude, MQB, is derived: MQB = 0.6·log10(L) + 0.131. Using this relation and extrapolating the database from the questionnaire shows that for magnitudes between 1 and 2, blasts occur 200–250 times more frequently than micro-earthquakes in the Northern Rhine area.