After a farmer discovered natural gas deposits near the town of Slochteren in 1959, Groningen province began major drilling, fuelling the country's growth. But the rapid extraction of this mineral from what is Europe's largest natural gas field (and the world's 10th largest) has, over the years, triggered a series of small earthquakes around the village of Loppersum. Protests in Groningen by an anti-fracking movement, formed by residents angry about the damage inflicted to their homes and public buildings, finally prompted the government to reduce drilling in 2014 (from a peak of 54 billion cubic metres in 2013) and pay compensation totalling €1.2 billion over a period of five years to locals affected. In 2016 gas extraction was limited further still from 27 to 24 billion cubic metres a year.
A major quake in January 2018 – measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale, with its epicentre in the village of Zeerijp near Loppersum but felt as far as Groningen city – has hopefully resolved the matter once and for all. The government confirmed that it will aim to reduce gas production at the Groningen field by 12 billion cubic metres a year, with the hope of ending drilling completely by 2022. Currently some 40% of the country's energy comes from gas.