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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A Dutch court said on Thursday it had ordered prosecutors to open a criminal investigation into responsibility for earthquakes triggered by gas production at the country's large gas field in Groningen.

The Leeuwaarden-Arnhem Appeals Court directed prosecutors to open an investigation, saying they had not looked carefully enough at whether a crime could be proved. Prosecutors had previously declined to act, arguing it was a civil matter.

NAM, a joint venture between Shell and Exxon that operates production at Groningen, has accepted responsibility for damage caused to buildings and structures across the region by the relatively small quakes.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling, editing by David Evans)

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