A coal mine in the Kemerovo Oblast of Siberia had to be evacuated after a fire broke out on Saturday 17 August 2019. The incident happened at the Gramoteyevskaya Coal Mine in Belovsky District at about 1.10 am local time, due to a fault on a conveyor belt. Forty eight workers were in the mine at the time, forty three of whom were able to make their way out unaided, with the remaining five waiting in a safe area until they could be led out by rescue workers (many modern mines have isolated safe areas with separate ventilation systems and communications, enabling miners to wait out exactly this sort of problem). Nobody was hurt in the incident, and the evacuation was of a purely precautionary nature.
The approximate location of the Gramoteyevskaya Coal Mine. Google Maps.
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. Fire is much feared in coal mines due to this combination of flammable gas and solids, with methane and coal dust both potentially explosive when they come into contact with naked flames. To make matters worse, the limited oxygen supply in mines often means that such fires will involve incomplete combustion, in which all the oxygen is used up, but instead of forming carbon dioxide forms the much more deadly carbon dioxide, with potentially lethal consequences for anyone in the mine.
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