Worldchanging recently pointed out that underground coal fires release as much Carbon Dioxide as US road vehicles. Like (it seems) a lot of the other readers, I was surprised, keen to find out more, and interested in what solutions people had come up with.
There aren’t any. Or at least, none that I can find. I spent a fair while in the British Library last week, looking through the few references I could find. There’s some work on using satellites to identify and monitor fires – Anupma Prakash, for example, has written quite a few articles on this, and there is a small organisation investigating coal fires in China. And there are the old techniques that have been used for decades (centuries?) with limited success. The book Unseen Danger, which is a history of the Centralia mine fire, is a readable account of some of these, and how they failed.
It seems that much of the research is tucked away in technical papers within mining-related organisations. I kept on seeing references to reports from the US Bureau of Mining. But that bureau was closed a decade ago, their reports are presumably locked away in a library in Washington, and the best we have online ins the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
As Prakash says, “till recently, such a major environmental hazard was overlooked or largely undermined by the international community”. I’m not sure where to look for ways of changing that, but I do think it’s worth doing.