A 1-point-2 million dollar effort is underway to put out a coal mine
fire east of Pittsburgh. The fire has been burning for over a decade
in Allegheny County's Boyce Park. As Brad Linder reports,
extinguishing coal fires is a lot more complicated than simply turning
on a fire hose.
The ground is burning.
A coal mine fire's been working it's way through an abandoned mine
beneath Boyce Park since at least the late 1980s.
July 15, 2002
By Dan Simon
Mine fires, a legacy of Pennsylvania's industrial past, continue to
burn in the Keystone State. While the 41-year-old Centralia mine fire
is perhaps the best known, there are a total of 49 mine fires currently
The town of Carbondale was reported to have three separate
mine fires, although one of them, the Powderly Culm Bank Fire, is
believed to be out. This small community of about 10,000 people is
located in the Northeastern part of the state in Lackawana County,
north of Scranton, Penn.
Pennsylvania is mined for two types of coal:
bituminous, a softer material found mainly to the Central and Western
parts of the state, and anthracite, a harder coal found mainly in
the Northeast. The state supplies about 6.7 percent of all U.S. coal
production and is home to 97 percent of the country's anthracite coal
In 1995, 8.7 million tons of anthracite and 60.8 million
tons of bituminous coal were mined here, employing more than 10,000
people. The $1.5 billion earned in direct coal sales represents about
one percent of the state's gross economic product. Yet the state's
coal mining legacy has left current residents with a litany of environmental
More than 2,400 miles of the state's 54,000 miles of streams
are polluted by acid mine drainage. There are also more than 1,200
open portals and vertical shafts. Abandoned mine shafts can pose a
threat to adventurous children and pets. There are also approximately
200,000 acres of land throughout Pennsylvania that are prone to 'subsidence,'
a type of shifting in the ground caused when mines collapse, that
can crack homes' foundations, redirect streams and more. So far the
state and federal government have combined to spend more than $635
million on abandoned mine problems, with an estimated $15 billion
still needed to be spent on reclamation efforts.
Pennsylvania is currently
the site of 94 percent of the remaining underground mine fires in
the United States according to information from the Pennsylvania Bureau
of Abandoned Mine Reclamation. It's also home to 90 percent of the
country's mine related hazardous and explosive gas problems and half
of its hazardous water bodies.
One bright spot is advances in surface
mining techniques that enable the coal industry to go back and reclaim
abandoned mine sites by re-mining them. These projects currently make
up about a quarter of all acres being mined today. More the 2,514
acres of such abandoned mines were reclaimed in 1996 alone by the