Latitude -31.86868, Longitude 150.899584
Located in the Hunter Valley of NSW, between Scone and Murrurundi
Source: Burning Mountain Nature Reserve National Parkes and Wildlife Service
Underground coal fires are quite common throughout the world, often in coal mines. Coal seams can be ignited by lightning or wildfires and the seam can continue to burn indefinitely, even after the surface fire has been extinguished. The fires are extremely difficult to extinguish and often are the source of new bush fires.
The oldest known coal seam fire in the world has been smouldering for some 5,500 years at Burning Mountain, north of Scone in NSW. Early explorers assumed Burning Mountain's billowing smoke and peak of grey, smouldering ash was an active volcano but it was, in fact, a coal seam fire.
Burning Mountain, officially known as Mount Wingen, is 548m above sea level and 243m above the Pages River Valley. It is the only example of a naturally burning coal seam in Australia. Believed to have been organically ignited, the smouldering fire is slowly burning through a thick coal seam about 30m below the surface. The fire moves along the coal seam at a rate of about one metre per year and has shifted south about 150m since it was first identified by Europeans in 1829.
The nature reserve surrounding Burning Mountain comprises two small blocks joined by a narrow strip of land. The reserve is located on a prominent ridge and the two blocks occupy part of the north- western slope of Mount Wingen and the north-eastern slope of Burning Mountain. The northern block consists almost entirely of the Koogah Formation (sandstone, shale, conglomerate and coal), with a minor occurrence of Bickham Formation rocks (lithic sandstone, conglomerate). The southern block also contains Koogah Formation rocks as well as important outcrops of Werrie Basalt. Away from the vent site, there are uniform clay soils on ridge tops, duplex soils on mobile sandy slopes and alluvial soils on the deeper layers, with colluvial sandy clay on the valley floors.
The Mount Wingen car park is adjacent to the New England Highway and picnic tables and toilets are available. A two hour return walk runs on a trail from the car park to the site of the vent where smoke emanates from the ground. There are information panels and walkways dotted around the site.