Smoke pours from underground coal fires in China
A more than 50 year-old coal fire in China has finally been put out.
The fire, in the Terak coal field in Xinjiang region’s capital of Urumqi, had burned through almost 12.5 million tons of coal in the more than half century it’s been smouldering.
Coal fires are nothing new in Xinjiang, which produces more than 50 million tons of coal annually. The fires can smoulder for years, feeding on the miles of underground coal seams. Coal fires can have nasty consequences. In addition to pollution from smoke, the fires also release poisonous gases. When coal seams burn through, the ground above them can collapse and swallow whatever is on the earth above it.
The Coalfield Fire Fighting Project Office estimated that they saved around 650 million tons of coal by extinguishing the fire. The firefighting team used some methods unique to underground fires. Miao Pu, the head of the firefighting team, said: “First, we drilled into the burning coal bed and then poured water and slurry into it to lower the temperature. After the temperature dropped, we covered the surface to starve the fire of oxygen.”
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