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An industrial legacy

I only fitfully buy the local newspaper, but this week’s issue has a strange story that has its origins back in 1984. In the UK we had a miners’ strike back then, and I now live in an old mining area. It turns out that during the strike, ‘someone’ (the paper is careful not to point a finger, because there’s likely to be an investigation) made a number of unauthorised and undocumented tunnels, and they weren’t properly maintained.

The local mines were all closed shortly after the strike ended.

I vaguely knew that old, unmaintained mines have risks of spontaneous combustion. There’s a UK Coal Authority list of seams with this risk. Wikipedia offers a short and general explanation and the US Department of Energy has a file that gives more detail.

It looks like at least one of the seams containing an undocumented tunnel is actually now alight. The first indication was that gardeners living above the seam found themselves pulling fully cooked vetegables from their back gardens and a couple of feet down in the earth, apparently, the temperature is 60 deg. C.

And this seems to be, on the face of it, the result of stuff that happened almost 30 years ago inside the mine during a miners’ strike, while the miners were picketing the mine gates. Stuff that wasn’t recorded at the time and got glossed over afterwards. Apparently there’s an entire street affected, where the houses may now be uninhabitable due to heated foundations and the risk of smoke percolating up into the houses through the ground. And much as that might be a stunning visual image to use in a story, its real-life occurrence is clearly going to have a major effect on the families living in that street.

I can see this one running for some time with inquiries, insurance claims, lawsuits and suchlike.

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