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My story for a video game has some kind of "enemy" (think "the Others" from Lost—little is known about them; they have control over a small settlement or two and appear to be engaging in some manner of industry involving a network of abandoned coal mines).

I'm not really looking to flesh this back-story out since I might do that myself, but I have the opinion that an unexpected volcanic eruption is going to be a good premise for a "run-for-your-life" part of the game.

It's occurred to me that a volcano and coal mine are two kinds of "rather deep holes in the ground". So how can a small team of careless idiots in charge of mining equipment accidentally cause an eruption? Is it really just a case of digging?

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    $\begingroup$ Why resort to improbable disasters when there's so many probable disasters: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_disasters#Accidents or specific to mining, something like en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aberfan_disaster $\endgroup$ – Sanchises Jan 31 at 10:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Sanchises Mostly because volcanoes are picturesque and beautiful, and in my setting, plentiful. Also, I think it would make the nature of the industry the goons engage in more "mysterious" or something. $\endgroup$ – Wilson Jan 31 at 11:07
  • $\begingroup$ If you believe in butterfly effect aka chaos theory, then why not have faith in a small team of careless idiots? $\endgroup$ – user6760 Jan 31 at 11:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Wilson In that case, many geysers are artificial. Choose your pick: either have hot water mud slides or, there's even geyers that erupt due to cyclic over-saturation of CO2 (google Wallender Born) - a silent deadly killer (only noticeable by a foul sulfur smell given the volcanic origin). Or, you know, just have your volcano and count on suspension of disbelief. $\endgroup$ – Sanchises Jan 31 at 11:15
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Slight frame challenge...what if they were working around a volcano that was currently quiet but not completely dorment? One that could go at any time but, for now, was safe to be around as long as you weren't right up in it.

I've visited volcanos like that...they had some steam coming out but I could get fairly close. There was a fence to keep visitors away from dangerous parts. After I left that country, I heard the volcano became more active and the entire area was closed.

So what if this volcano was going to erupt in a month or two? The characters don't know when or if this will happen and absolutely nothing they do or don't do can change this from happening.

But that mining activity (or whatever it turns out they're doing in the mine) makes just enough of a difference in the landscape that, when the volcano blows, the lava changes course.

What would have been a situation of "we should get out of here because the air is bad and let's not take chances now that the volcano is active" into a *"holy ****! the lava is heading right for us! Run for your life!"*

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They really can't, sorry. Even setting off nukes in mine shafts doesn't trigger volcanoes!

The sort of levels of pressure and mass involved in volcanic eruptions are just so far outside human scales that the chance we do anything is minuscule.

Your best bet may be to have a pocket of superheated and pressurized gas or mud. Breaking through into that could be devastating to anyone inside the mine but even then the effects on the surface would be minor.

Something you could do is have a lake with dissolved carbon dioxide. Human activity could trigger an avalanch or landside which then causes a linmic eruption such as at Lake Nyos.

That wouldn't have the same visual spectacle as a volcanic eruption though, everyone just falls over unconscious or dead.

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They can, but they'd have to be really stupid and really, really unlucky. Something like the Howard brothers in a nightmare of the Marx brothers crossed with the lovechild of Agent 46 and Mr. Bean on a bad day, unlucky and stupid.

The only real way this is likely to happen if the above geniuses decided to mine a caldera of a dormant volcano, and weakened the crust enough that the pressure of lava underneath forced it open the rest of the way. A couple of hundred metre deep shaft, just where the crust is thinnest should do it

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    $\begingroup$ What you're doing is triggering the next eruption of an active volcano a bit early. If the volcano is dormant, it's either because the pressure is low (in which case a hole won't matter) or because the plug is very thick (in which case it won't happen by accident). Note, also, that if you've got hot magma, you'd going to notice the heat long before you get near the magma chamber walls. $\endgroup$ – Mark Olson Jan 31 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ @MarkOlson: As I said, very, very stupid $\endgroup$ – nzaman Jan 31 at 17:27
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Tim B's point is well taken, the human scale of effect on geology is insufficient to directly reactivate a dormant volcano, but most disasters are the result of a cascade of incidents that result in devastation. As in the domino effect a relatively small action can trigger a series of larger consequences that ultimately lead to a disaster.

The diverting of a water source could inundate descending lava tubes that lead near a geological instability. The resulting subterranean steam explosions into subsurface caverns that collapse might be sufficient to trigger a fault movement in a subduction zone, resulting in your desired volcanic activity.

Although the cascade failure effect makes it possible for the event to occur, your premise is confounded by the fact that it doesn't require "reckless idiots" to trigger the first domino. If people knew the diverting of the water source would cause the chain reaction, they would be evil agents of chaos. If the people didn't know they would be innocent instigators.

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