A Study of the Chemical Reactions Leading to Spontaneous Combustion of Pyritic to Black at MT Whaleback, Western Australia

Thornber MR, ; Davidson LR,
Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 7
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1986
The cause of spontaneous combustion of pyritic black shale has been studied by calorimetry and other techniques. The conditions required for ignition to occur are: 1. A critical mass of pyritic black shale. 2. Acidity. 3. Fine shale particle size. 4. A high ambient temperature. 5. The exclusion of air during the preparation of a calorimeter charge. The reaction is characterised by an initial incubation period during which an unknown phase is produced. The build up and oxidation of this phase results in a chain reaction culminating in ignition. The mechanism is believed to involve the interaction of pyrite, sulphuric acid, ferrous sulphate, or meta-stable oxysulphates, with ammonium nitrate. The recommended strategy for prevention of premature detonation is to neutralise the acids in the shale with quick and slow release alkaline materials.
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