Near the town of Alès, France, there are many reminders of a coal mining history. The mines have been closed for over 25 years now, but evidence remains. In particular, towering over the town in the foothills of the Cévennes mountains is a “spoil tip” (i.e. a pile of unwanted waste.) In the case of coal mines, these spoil tips contain significant amounts of coal as well as shale, carboniferous sandstone etc. The spoil tip in Alès was colonised over time by trees but a forest fire on the tip in 2004 burned the trees and ignited the coal with the result that this pile is still burning underground in 2011 – 7 years after the forest fire incident.