China Invests Heavily To Extinguish Coal Seam Fires
The National Development and Reform Commission of China earmarked 259 million yuan (39 million U.S. dollars) to put out coal seam fires in Xinjiang to protect the local environment and coal resources.
According to the Xinjiang development and reform commission, the money will be used to extinguish fires in two coal mines in Urumqi City and Toksun County over the next three years.
Underground coal can smolder and cause fires that continue to burn for years and are extremely difficult to extinguish. Such fires can easily spread to the ground or cause subsidence of surface infrastructure.
An area of more than 310,000 square meters is burning at the Urumqi mine. The fire causes an estimated 217,000 tonnes of coal to be wasted annually and makes some 11.28 million tonnes of coal inaccessible for mining.
The Toksun coal mine fire expanded to cover 860,000 square meters in 2011 from just 60,000 square meters in 2006. In addition to the 450,000 tonnes of coal that burn in the fire every year, another 3 billion tonnes are made inaccessible to mining.
Xinjiang has estimated coal reserves of 2.19 trillion tonnes. The region’s underground coal fires are the most acute in China. Currently, more than 40 coal mines are still burning, covering more than 7 million square meters in total. Over 4.7 million tonnes of coal are wasted every year due to the fires.