Emanuele Gaudioso

Seismic Regulated Landscapes

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The Marsico dyke is one the two dikes in Val d'Agri. The second one, Pertusillo dyke, is placed in the valley and gives water to Basilicata and Apulia.A cracked road on the way to Caggiano.Landslide in the municipality of San Mauro Forte following the works for the construction of a road for the rapid connection of the villages in the area.The map drawn following Robert Mallet's studies of the municipalities affected by the earthquake of December 16th, 1857.Villa D'Agri is the most developed city in the Val d'Agri. Many businesses depend on trades arisen from the oil industry within the valley.

Seismic Regulated Landscapes. On going long term project.
All pictures are taken in Basilicata. They may vary.

I.C.H.E.S.E. (lnternational Commission on Hydrocarbon Exploration and Seismicity in the Emilia Region) commission was set up to analyse the circumstances around the Reggio Emilia earthquake in 2012. The event first occurred in January and then to repeat in higher scale on May the same year with significant effects on structures and population. The requested investigation by the president of Emilia-Romagna region led the international commission to establish if there are connections among seismic activity and hydrocarbon exploration. If the activity altered the natural events, in other words if induced seismicity is real.

The interested area is about 4000 km² and three exploitation licenses have been released in the years, these are: Mirandola, Spilamberto and Recovato. What the commission tries to establish is if “is it possible that the seismic crisis in Emilia has been triggered by...particular invasive research activities, such as drilling, fluids injections, etc..” and if “is possible that the seismic crisis has been triggered by activities for the exploitation and utilization of reservoirs carried out in recent times in the close neighborhood of the seismic sequence of 2012”.


The underground of Basilicata has the biggest oil reservoir of Europe and like others, the region is one of the most seismic in Italy. In December the 16th, 1857 a violent earthquake with an epicenter in the village of Caggiano destroyed numerous towns between the Val d'Agri (Basilicata) and the Vallo di Diano (Campania) and killed 20,000 people. This episode identified the area as the “Montemurro fault area”.

A few weeks after the event the engineer Robert Mallet was sent by the Royal Society of London to study the effects of the earthquake. Together with the photographer Alphonse Bernoud documented what remained of the villages after the 16th December. Later all data and pictures became the book “Great Neapolitan Earthquake of 1857. The First Principles of Observational Seismology”.

Today in Val d’Agri twenty-four oil wells are working twenty-four hours seven days per week to ensure the mining goals. Once extracted the oil is refined within the C.O.V.A. (Local Refinery) and sent through an underground pipeline to Taranto, in Apulia.

After the I.C.H.E.S.E. commission to monitor the underground reactions to mining activities a network of seismic sensors were placed on the ground in Val d’Agri.

This project wants to picture the contradictions between what the science discovered as possible related consequence of oil extractions activities and how this relates to the life and the landscapes.

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