Fires have occurred and are continuing to occur in residual coal in abandoned underground mines, refuse banks, and inactive deposits. Once established, these fires can smolder for many decades, resulting in emissions of toxic and obnoxious fumes to the atmosphere and destruction of property and coal resources. Conventional methods for extinguishing and/or controlling residual (or wasted) coal fires, such as sealing, digging out, isolation, quenching, and/or inundation, have been developed over the years, but their application is often costly and sometimes destructive or ineffective and they are hazardous in themselves. A review of these methods is presented along with an analysis of the technical and institutional problems associated with their successful application. For example, a major technical problem exists in identifying the location of subsurface heat sources and establishing measurable criteria as to when a fire is permanently extinguished. A major institutional problem occurs in evaluating project costs and setting aside adequate funds. Most often these two problems compound each other. Current research and development at the Bureau of Mines is attempting to resolve many of the problems with the conventional methods of fire control and extinguishment.
Proc. Nat'l Symp.on Abandoned Mine Land Reclem., Bismarck, North Dakota, May 21-22, 1984, PP. 457-484