There is a problem when people try to retrieve the huge deposits of natural resources underneath the earth’s crust. The most valuable of these resources is fuel, and to get to them, we must expose them to air. One stray spark can cause that fuel to catch fire, and you’ve learned your lesson. But by then it may be too late, since there’s a lot of fuel under there, and mines and wells continue to feed the flames while making it impossible to fight the fire. You know about Centralia, Pennsylvania, where a coal seam has been burning since 1962. But that’s just one fire that’s been burning an awful long time. The world is full of them.
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The Jharia area of Dhanbad, India, was once a treasure of mining, as billions of dollars in prime coke coal lie underneath the ground. But it’s turned into a nightmare, since that coal seam has been on fire since 1916! Over 40 million tons of coal has burned in that time, and in addition, no new mines can be opened to collect the unaffected coal, since the burning seam goes in all directions. The fire is making a growing area on top uninhabitable. That’s just one of five places where the earth has been on fire for ages and probably will remain on fire for years or even centuries to come, that you can read about at Cracked.
(Image credit: miketnorton)