Chinese region plans to extinguish 1960s fire at coal mines

Smouldering started in 1960s after exposure of coal-bearing strata in air.

Beijing: China`s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the country`s top coal producer, plans to douse fire that is raging since 1960s at nearly half of its coal fields by 2012 at a whopping cost of about USD 29 million.

The project would target seven north China`s coalfields where smouldering fires are monitored at 66 locations, with an impact area totalling 26.7 square kilometres, Head of the region`s Economic and Information Commission Ya Saning today said.

"More than 20 million tonnes of coal is wasted every year in our region due to the smouldering fires. And the fires also cause serious air pollution," Saning said.

The regional government has earmarked an annual financing of CNY 200 million (USD 29.3 million) from 2009 to 2012 for fighting fires, the head said.

The smouldering started in 1960s after the exposure of coal-bearing strata in the air due to faulty mining practices, which eventually led to spontaneous combustion due to dry weather of the region, Saning explained.

According to a harnessing plan, coal threatened by fire would be dug away to stop fire from spreading, while the affected region will be covered by sand.

Other materials such as slurry are also pumped to help extinguish fires underground, state news agency Xinhua reported.

Inner Mongolia produced 637 million tonnes of coal last year, ranking the first in China.


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