HOHHOT - North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region plans to extinguish smoldering fires at nearly half of its coalfields with the problems by 2012, said local authorities Friday.
Ya Saning, head of the region's Economic and Information Commission, said the project would target seven coal producing fields where smoldering fires are monitored at 66 locations, with an impact area totaling 26.7 square kilometers.
Smoldering coalfield fires have been raging on since 1960s due to factors including dry weather, improper coalmining practices which led to exposure of coal-bearing strata in the air, eventually leading to spontaneous combustions, Ya said.
"More than 20 million tonnes of coal is wasted every year in our region due to the smoldering fires. And the fires also cause serious air pollution," said Ya.
The regional government has earmarked an annual financing of 200 million yuan ($29.3 million) from 2009 to 2012 for fighting the fires, Ya said.
According to a harnessing plan, coal threatened by fire hazards is to be dug away to stop fires from spreading, while the fires are to be covered by sand. Other materials such as slurry are also pumped to help extinguish fires underground.
Inner Mongolia produced 637 million tonnes of coal last year, ranking the first in China.