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Oil company blamed for mud-volcano eruption

The Sidoarjo mud volcano has caused widespread devastation. Credit: S. PAMUNGKAS/REUTERS

After more than two years of debate, a vote of 74 Earth scientists at last week's American Association of Petroleum Geologists conference blamed an Indonesian oil company for creating a mud volcano.

Mud has been spewing from a former rice paddy in Sidoarjo in East Java since 29 May 2006 (see _Nature_ 445, 812–815; 2007), and the question of who will pay for the clean-up hangs on what caused the disaster. PT Lapindo Brantas, the oil company, says the cause was an earthquake that had struck two days beforehand.

But the majority of scientists attending the meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, voted that the tremors had hit too far away for them to be responsible. Some researchers presented data showing that the pressure created by the company's drilling was sufficient to break a path for deep mud to rupture the surface.

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Oil company blamed for mud-volcano eruption. Nature 456, 14 (2008).

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