Sunday 21 October 2018

Explosion kills two and traps twenty at coal mine in Shandong Province, China.

Two miners have been confirmed dead following an explosion at the Longyun Coal Mine in Yuncheng County, Shandong Province, China, on Saturday 20 October 2018. The incident occurred at about 11.00 pm local time, and also trapped 20 of 334 of the workers in the mine at the time underground, though two of these have subsequently been rescued. The explosion additionally knocked out air supplies to the part of the mine, though this has now been restored, and is described as having damaged a drainage tunnel, which may indicate that there is now a danger of flooding within the mine.

Rescue workers bringing an injured miner out of the Longyan Coal Mine in Shandong Province following an explosion on 20 October 2018. Guo Xulei/Xinhua/AP.

Coal is formed when buried organic material, principally wood, in heated and pressurised, forcing off hydrogen and oxygen (i.e. water) and leaving more-or-less pure carbon. Methane is formed by the decay of organic material within the coal. There is typically little pore-space within coal, but the methane can be trapped in a liquid form under pressure. Some countries have started to extract this gas as a fuel in its own right. When this pressure is released suddenly, as by mining activity, then the methane turns back to a gas, expanding rapidly causing, an explosion. This is a bit like the pressure being released on a carbonated drink; the term 'explosion' does not necessarily imply fire in this context, although as methane is flammable this is quite likely.

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