Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mining: 50 year old fire extinguished

Firefighters in northwestern China have extinguished a fire that had burned in an underground coal seam for a half-century, state media reported today.

It took firefighters more than three years to put out the blaze by drilling into the burning coal bed and pouring water and slurry into it, and then finally covering the surface to starve it of oxygen, Xinhua news agency said.

The fire, 100m underground in the Terak coal field in Xinjiang region, had consumed more than 12m tonnes of coal and released over 70,000 tonnes of toxic gases annually since the 1950s, it said.

Officials plan to monitor the coal seam for several years in case the fire re-ignites, Xinhua quoted an official as saying.

The report said such fires occur spontaneously and that some have been burning for hundreds of years and are extremely difficult to put out.