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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Print version ISSN 0038-223X


GENC, B.  and  COOK, A.. Spontaneous combustion risk in South African coalfields. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2015, vol.115, n.7, pp.563-568. ISSN 2411-9717.

The risk of spontaneous combustion is well known in the South African coal mining industry. In the coming years it is very possible that the incidence of spontaneous combustion will increase from current levels, due to factors such as an increased rate of mining, re-working of previously mined seams, more stooping and total extraction for underground mines, and higher stripping ratios for surface mines, leading to more spoils. It is also fairly certain that coal mining will face tougher environmental emissions legislation in the near future. To determine the areas where the risks of spontaneous combustion are high, it is necessary to improve on our current laboratory procedures for testing and evaluating coal samples, combining the results with site and field data, and if necessary revising the laboratory rating system to refine our understanding of South African conditions. Currently, laboratory tests are conducted in order to determine both the Wits-EHAC index and the crossing-point temperature which, when combined, give an indication of the spontaneous combustion propensities of the coal samples. This procedure has enabled the establishment of a database of results to review and evaluate South African coal seams. Using this database, the high-risk areas in terms of spontaneous combustion are identified. Tests have been undertaken for five consecutive years, between 2008 and 2012. In total, 119 coal samples from different coal seams and production coalfields have been analysed and classified through a series of laboratory tests. A comprehensive database of these results is available, and is continually being updated as new test results are added. This database will continue to expand, and to provide the basis for an improved risk evaluation methodology for spontaneous combustion.

Keywords : coal spontaneous combustion; risk assessment; Wits-EHAC liability index; crossing-point temperature.

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