Abstract

Thousands of mine workers die every year from mining accidents, and instantaneous coal outbursts in underground coal mines are one of the major killers. Various models for these outbursts have been proposed, but the precise mechanism is still unknown. We hypothesize that the mechanism of coal outbursts is similar to magma fragmentation during explosive volcanic eruptions; i.e., it is caused by high gas pressure inside coal but low ambient pressure on it, breaking coal into pieces and releasing the high-pressure gas in a shock wave. Hence, coal outbursts may be regarded as another type of gas-driven eruption, in addition to explosive volcanic, lake, and possible ocean eruptions. We verify the hypothesis by experiments using a shock-tube apparatus. Knowing the mechanism of coal outbursts is the first step in developing prediction and mitigation measures. The new concept of gas-driven solid eruption is also important to a better understanding of salt-gas outbursts, rock-gas outbursts, and mud volcano eruptions.

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