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Repurposing of Abandoned Mines a Fitting Response to Coal’s Immense Contribution to Global Warming

Posted Oct 07 2008 6:21pm 1 Comment

Despite what many political candidates and incumbents espouse during election years, there is no such thing as clean coal. That being said, the immense contribution to global warming of the mining and burning of coal has the potential to be offset to a certain extent. To be clear, what I am about to share with you in no way addresses mercury hotspots or other mercury-related issues which arise from our reliance on coal.

Coal mines often contain byproducts which in some cases we capture and in other cases we vent into the atmosphere. Methane gas in a common example and, tragically, its ubiquity in mines is a leading cause of sudden disasters in mining communities. The geological history of our planet is one of the main reasons that the methane is present. The gas was created and compressed over eons of planetary evolution and then trapped beneath the surface. Slicing into the Earth’s crust to extract the coal can allow the methane to escape.

If we think of mines as rudimentary tombs, the potential for repurposing becomes an intriguing concept. After all, if the Earth’s crust was solid enough and strong enough to create and retain billions of BTUs of methane, might it not be possible to use this tomb concept to store other substances? Indeed it can and sequestration is the operative word!

Environmentally speaking, we should desist all coal mining today, right now as you read this. For a variety of reasons, that won’t happen so let’s make the best of a dirty situation. The same politicians who love to blather on about clean coal also are enamored with the concept of carbon sequestration as a means of fighting global warming. The hard science behind such positions indicates that it can help but is very, very far from being a panacea.

Nevertheless, the sequestration of carbon in mines can be an important stop gap measure which I support, mostly for sentimental reasons since it was the bitumen and coke previously located in the mines which brought us the climate crisis of the new millennium. What more logical place to store some of the byproducts is there?

In my next installment, I will share with you an encouraging yet distinct repurposing of abandoned mines. It does not sequester carbon directly but can result in significant decreases in the use of fossil fuels, having a similar net effect.

Fomenting the Triple Bottom Line

Corbett Kroehler


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It is good news. Maybe our mobile crusher can be used in coal crushing.
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