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Coal Fires in China

The People's Republic of China (China) depends largely on coal to meet the country's energy demands. Even though China accounts for only 11 percent of the world's total recoverable coal reserves, it remains to be the world's largest producer, consumer and exporter of coal.

Coal reserves of China are concentrated mainly in the northern part of the country. The coal mining belt stretches 5000 km from east to west and about 750 km in the north-south direction. Coal fires are spread in this entire belt. This map showing the distribution of coal fires in North China gives an idea of the extent of the problem of coal fires in China.

Though the coal belt and coal fires extend across this vast stretch, the focus of systematic scientific efforts of coal fire mapping, monitoring, prevention and fighting have been restricted to a few sites only. The most important of these locations are

From 1996 through 2002 I was deeply involved in the China coal fire projects of the International Institute for Geo-Information Sciences and Earth Observation (ITC). More information on these projects is available at the ITC's coalfire homepage.