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HCCL engages German firm to deal with underground coal seam fires

HWANGE Colliery Company Limited (HCCL) has engaged a German firm to deal with underground coal seam fires after the government described the smouldering fires as a ticking ‘atomic bomb.’

President spokesperson George Charamba on Wednesday urged the HCCL to urgently act after a picture of the fires that cracked wide open a tarred road in the mining town went viral.

The fire cut through the road that links No. 2 (Madumabisa village) and No. 3 (Makwika village) Hwange Colliery Company (HCC) concession areas.

HCCL managing director Charles Zinyemba said the company was equally disturbed by the ravaging fires that have claimed lives, and left others with permanent injuries and disabilities.

“As part of the long term mitigation measures, HCC has since contracted a German-based specialist company to assist with necessary interventions,” Zinyemba said in a statement today (Friday).

“The organisation is among the best engineering teams in the world who have intervened in coal seam fires such as we are experiencing. DTM is the only company which offered services for managing the fires using modern and cost effective methods among other companies which HCCL consulted.”

Zinyemba said the company’s interventions will include subsurface fire detection, location of hotspots, magnetic mapping of underground fires, laser scanning of underground cavities, crack mapping and rock mechanical analysis and devising extinguishing strategies among others.

“We have confidence that put together, all the above interventions will soon absolutely contain the spontaneous fires, all to the best interest of the Hwange citizenry and related stakeholders,” he added.

On November, 8, an 8-year old girl Alisha Muzvite suffered serious burns and had to be transferred to Bulawayo’s Mpilo Central Hospital for medical attention after she was burnt by the fires.

She later succumbed to the injuries while still receiving treatment.

A coal seam fire is an underground burning coal fire. It can burn for decades and can self-ignite through spontaneous combustion. Because of lack of oxygen, it is usually smouldering unnoticed until ground opens up.

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