The Xinjiang Regional Coalfield Fire Fighting Project Office launched a project in 2004 to fight fires raging in the country's north-west and save millions of tonnes of coal. The newly announced target date reduces the original schedule by five years, and will preserve an additional 24Mt of high-quality coal in the region.
The coalfield fires are raging mainly in Xinjiang, inner Mongolia and Ningxia, which account for more than 80% of China's total coal reserves. Methods used to put out the fires include drilling boreholes which are filled with water and slurry.
Xinjiang alone hosts estimated coal reserves of 1.8 trillion tonnes, or 40.6% of China's total, but 33 sites in the region have coalfield fires that consume about 8Mt every year.
Spontaneous combustion of exposed coal seams, mine fires and the dry climate are the main causes of these fire.
Qi Dexiang, head of Xinjiang Regional Coalfield Fire Fighting Project Office, said his teams had 47 years’ fire-fighting experience and had developed an effective system for prospecting, extinguishing, and monitoring coalfield fires.
Last year’s success story saw the extinguishing of the century-old Liuhuanggou coalfield fire after four consecutive years of effort.
"We vow to put out all coalfield fires in the region by 2015," Qi told Xinhuanet.
With the financial support of the central government, five key coalfields in the region were put out between 1984 and 1999, preventing the loss of 30 billion tonnes of coal.