Researchers offer hope of answer to slag heap fires

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PEOPLE living near old mine workings could benefit from moves to limit the harmful impact of slow-burning fires in slag heaps.

Engineers are studying piles of coal, shale and other minerals left over from industrial mining to assess how best to cope with hidden risks.

The heaps, also known as bings, can self-ignite many years after they are formed and burn slowly for years afterwards, leaching chemicals, emitting greenhouse gases and raising risk of landslip.

Researchers from Edinburgh University are studying how the fires develop and spread, and hope their new understanding will enable development of an effective low-cost way to manage or extinguish the fires.

This will help protect local communities and also safeguard local ecosystems and the environment.

Dr Guillermo Rein, of the university’s School of Engineering, said: “Examining slow-burning fires in piles of shale or coal helps us to understand the dynamics of how these fires move slowly but burn large amounts of fuel.”