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Project Launched to Stanch Coal Fires
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China and Germany Tuesday started a project involving the use of innovative technologies for detecting, monitoring and extinguishing coal fires in North China.

The project, initiated by the National Remote Sensing Center of China and the German Aerospace Center, covers such areas as studies on spontaneous combustion conditions in coal bearing areas in North China, development of new technologies for extinguishing coal fires, prevention of such fires and early detection, sources from the National Remote Sensing Center of China said at the kick-off ceremony for the project in Beijing.


The project will be mainly implemented in the Wuda and Gulaben coal fields of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and the Ruqigou coal field in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, where coal fires are relatively serious.


China and Germany will together set up a specialized research team to study the complex factors involved and the process of coal fires and develop fire-prevention technologies, according to the center.


The project has been listed as part of the governmental cooperation framework for science and technology established by the two countries, according to Yin Jun, an official of the Department for International Cooperation of the Ministry of Science and Technology.


"Perfecting methods of extinguishing and monitoring coal fires will also improve production safety in coal mines, which is of great concern to the Chinese Government. It will also help save coal resources and reduce environmental pollution,'' said Yin.


He said this year marks the 25th anniversary of the very successful cooperation of China and Germany in science and technology.


Fire disasters in underground coal fields are becoming increasingly severe. The Wuda coal field in Inner Mongolia alone has 16 fire-prone areas, with a total burning area of more than 300,000 square meters. Since 1990, spontaneous combustion in these coal areas has caused a loss of 1.8 million tons of coal resources, according to statistics from the Shenhua Group Company -- a major work unit involved in the Sino-German project.


The coal fires have emitted over 360,000 tons of sulphur oxide over the past 13 years, resulting in an increase in acid rain, land desertification and ecological deterioration in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, according to the group's report.


According to Stefan Voigt, an official and researcher with the German Aerospace Center, coal fires are a global problem, occurring in many countries and regions. North America, India, Indonesia and North China have the most severe cases of coal fires.


Coal fires have many bad affects, such as the waste of energy resources, land degradation, and moreover, causing lung cancer, diseases of the respiratory system and other diseases, said Voigt.


(China Daily September 10, 2003)



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