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Xinjiang Vows to Extinguish Coalfield Fires

Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, obsessed by the most coalfield fires in China, has pledged to put out all coalfield fires by 2015, five years earlier than the preset 2020, a local official in charge of quenching coalfield fire said here on Sunday.

"Predating the deadline can save about 24 million tons of high-quality coal for the region," said Qi Dexiang, head of the Xinjiang Regional Coalfield Fire Fighting Project Office.

Xinjiang boasts an estimated coal reserves of 1.8 trillion tons, or 40.6 percent of China's total. But Xinjiang also suffers the most serious coalfield fires, Qi said.

Currently, Xinjiang has 33 sites with coalfield fires, covering an area of 6.45 million square meters. Xinjiang might lose 68 million tons of coal to the fires if the fire could not be put out until 2020.

In 15 years From 1984 to 1999, fires in five key coalfields in the region had been extinguished with an investment of 153 million yuan (18.9 million US dollars) from the central and local governments, saving 30 billion tons of coal from being burned by fire.

"Advanced technologies and expertise in fire fighting can ensure the speed to quench the coalfield fires at an earlier date, " Qi said, adding that the new time limit for extinguishing all coalfield fires of the region has been approved by the State Development and Reform Commission.

China's coalfield fire sites are reported mainly in Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Ningxia, which accounts for over 80 percent of China's total coal reserves. The fiery fires in these coalfields cause an annual loss of 13 million tons of coal.

Self-ignition of exposed coal beds, colliery fires and dry climate are the main causes of coalfield fires in Xinjiang, according to Qi. Some coalfield fires have been burning for nearly ten centuries in the region.

(Xinhua News Agency October 17, 2005)

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