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American Journal of Scientific Research

ISSN 1450-223X Issue 11(2010), pp.92-102


EuroJournals Publishing, Inc. 2010
http://www.eurojournals.com/ajsr.htm

Composition, Trace Element Contents and Major


Ash Constituents of Thar Coal, Pakistan
M. Afzal Farooq Choudry
Department of Environmental Science, FUUAST, Karachi, Pakistan
E-mail: drafzalfarooq@yahoo.com
Yasmin Nurgis
Environmental Research Center, Bahria University, Karachi, Pakistan
E-mail: ercbu@bimcs.edu.pk
Mughal Sharif
Environmental Research Center, Bahria University, Karachi, Pakistan
E-mail: ercbu@bimcs.edu.pk
Amjad Ali Mahmood
Geological Survey of Pakistan, Karachi, Pakistan
Haq Nawaz Abbasi
Department of Environmental Science, FUUAST, Karachi, Pakistan
E-mail: hn.abbasi@yahoo.com
Abstract
Thar coalfield is a part of the Thar Desert of Pakistan. Pakistan has coal reserves of
185 billion tons, of this Thar coal reserves account for 175 billion tons spread over a single
geographically contained area of 9100 sq km in the south eastern part of the Sindh. It is
bounded in the north, east and south by India, in the west by the irrigated Indus river flood
plain. The terrain is sandy and rough with sand dunes forming the topography. Various
physio-chemical parameters including chemical composition of coal ashes, distribution of
trace elements in them, were analyzed to understand the coal prospects and its share in the
domestic energy production. In addition a preliminary study have also undertaken on the
factors that effect the chemical composition of coal ashes. The apparent rank is high
volatile Lignite B coal. Arithmetic mean values for proximate analysis of coals (as
received basis; n=54) show these coals to be 6.83% Ash, 29.55% volatile matter, 19.2%
fixed carbon and 44.3% moisture and have a heat of combustion of 6094 BTU/lb. Average
values for ultimate analysis of the coal show these coals to be 4.96% hydrogen, 51.18%
carbon, 0.31% nitrogen, 2.45% sulphur and 14.88% oxygen. The geometric mean values of
these, as viewed from the analysis of coal ash samples collected from the Thar coal field
region, it can be seen that coal ashes from region studied are composed of organic matter
and the major chemicals are SiO2, Al2O3, Fe2O3 and CaO as well as minor amounts of
SO3,P2O5, Na2O, K2O and TiO2. During the combustions of coal, its trace elements will be
redistributed and most of them are enriched in coal ashes.The mineralogy of Sindh coal
samples suggests that these coals have quartz and Kaolinite as the dominant phase and
minor amount of calcite, Illite and Muuscovite. The dominant minerals of Thar coals are

Composition, Trace Element Contents and Major Ash Constituents of Thar Coal, Pakistan

93

quartz. Quartz also tends to occur in the form of comparatively large particles of free
mineral matter, whereas much of the pyrite is dispersed in the coal substances and clay
sediments.
Keywords: Coal, Thar, Bara, Trace Elements, Ash

1. Introduction
Energy has become an important prerequisite for the economic development of a country. On one hand
it is used for the industrial and agricultural purposes and on other hand it is required for domestic use
of the citizens. Pakistan is presently facing an acute power shortage, with a rapidly growing population
and economy, and relying heavily on thermal power generation. About half of the thermal power
generation is based on imported oil or on natural gas. Oil is very expensive and rising unpredictable to
unprecedented height. Where as reserves of natural gas are limited. Pakistan is presently facing a
demand and supply gap of electricity approximately 5000MW and may increase in the coming years.
Out of total generation capacity of 17664MW, coal fired power generation is presently only
50MW. Whereas Pakistan has total coal reserves of 185 billion tons of these Thar coal reserves
account for 175 billion tons spread over a single geographical contained area of 9100 sq km in Thar
desert in South-Eastern corner of the province of Sindh, Pakistan. Coal is projected as a primary source
for power generation through its combustion and could even surpass oil and natural gas in use,
especially when the real costs of energy are compared to the costs of using indigenous coal resources
of Pakistan. In this scenario coal presents itself as the foremost solution to country energy crises.
In the process of combustion organic and inorganic materials in it will undergo a complex
variation part of them will become volatiles, together with coal smoke, enter into atmosphere in the
form of solid particles and the rest will be retained in ash and slag. Coal ashes are the residues of
organic and inorganic substances in coal left after coal combustion ( Abernethy et al; 1969).The
concentration of trace elements are much higher than those of bottom ash ( Swaine, 1975) coal
combustion not only produce heat and energy but significantly harm the environment and human
health ( Hepplaston et al; 1984; Borm, 1994; Vanhee et al, 1995; Borm and Driscoll, 1996; Driscoll et
al; 1996, 1997; Paul, 1997; Frinkelman et al; 1999). Under leaching action the ashes will find their way
into underground water, causing underground water pollution (Mareal Pires et al; 2000; Liuguijian,
2000 a). Therefore, coal combustion and ash slag formation will lead to obvious redistribution of
elements on the earth surface.
Coal quality is now generally recognized as being an impact, often significant, on coal
combustion especially in many areas of power plant operation. The parameters of rank, mineral matter
content (ash content) sulfur and moisture contents are regarded as determining factors in combustibility
as it relates to both heating value and ease of reaction. Therefore this study is undertaken the
geochemical characteristics, chemical composition and element composition of Thar coal .In addition
this study is a brief effort to stimulate the already growing interest in the possibilities of raising the coal
prospects and its share in the domestic energy production. Coal ashes analysis will provide the
scientific basis for their comprehensive utilization and for reducing environmental pollution.

2. Location and Topography of the Area


Pakistan lies along the contact between the Indian and Eurasian Plates. It is situated in the northwestern corner of the Indian Plate, to its south-east is Indian Plate and to the north the
Asian/Karakorum continental Plate.
The province of Sindh is situated in the Lower Indus Basin.Lower Indus Basin has a number of
coal basins. These basins extend westward from Thar coalfield, through Badin to Lakhra-Sonda-Thatta
area. The western part of Sindh falls in the folded belt zone where as most of the eastern part covers the

94

M. Afzal Farooq Choudry, Yasmin Nurgis, Mughal Sharif,


Amjad Ali Mahmood and Haq Nawaz Abbasi

platform slope. Shelf platform and carbonate deposits ranging in age from Triassic to recent overlie the
basement slope (Kazmi and Jan, 1995).
The Thar coalfield is located between latitudes 24o15'N and 25o 45'N and longitudes 69o45'E
and in the south-eastern part of Sindh. The Thar desert lies in the south-eastern part of Pakistan on the
stable western margin of the Indian plate (Kazmi and Jan, 1995).

3. Geology of Thar
The Thar coalfield is covered by dunes with an average depth varying from 14-93 meters and is located
on the Indus platform in the eastern part of the desert. This structural platform is underlain by relatively
shallow granitic basement. This granite complex dips down abruptly beneath the western part of the
Thar Desert and is highly faulted (Fasset and Durrani, 1994).
An unconformity at the base of underlying sedimentary sequence east ward to the point where
the Paleocene/Eocene rocks rest directly on the basement granite is present. The maceral components
indicate less maturity of coal formed herbaceous plants in warm climate with rapid rise and fall in
water level and environment of raised bogs (Fasset and Durrani, 1994). The quality of coal is liginite
B, Clay stone forms the roof as well as floor of coal benches (Jaleel et. al., 2002). Thar coals are
Paleocene to Eocene in age and may be deposited in raised bog environment (Jaleel et. al., 2002). The
geological studies shows that coal bearing strata of palocene-Eocene sediments unconformabaly
overlie the pre-cambrian basement igneous rocks exposed al-Nagar Parkar ( Fasset and Durrani, 1994)
and this is only out crop bed rock in the region.
At the depth of 110 to 277 meters the basement rock is generally granite and granodiorite. The
granite is of white, pinkish grey to very light grey in colour and coarse grained having feldspar to
highly altered Kaolinite (Jaffery, 1994).
The Paleocene-Ecocene coal bearing horizons of clay stone, carbonaceous clay stone, sand
stone and silt stone with inter-laminated coal beds. Sand stone is very fine to coarse grained and
consists of ferro magnesium mineral grains.
The metabasalts are medium to coarse grained volcanic and plutonic rocks that have
metamorphosed to epidote amphibolites and contain acidic dykes of rhyolite to quartz trachyte
composition (Jan et al., 1997). The coal bearing horizon of the Paleocene-Eocene sediments above the
basement complex is designated as Bara formation is highly altered Kaolinite (Jaffery, 1994). The
granite is white, pinkish grey. The stratigraphic sequence in the Thar coal test holes is generally the
same (Table 1)

4. Sample Collection and Analytical Methods


The coal reserves spread over a large area and the potential area is divided into four blocks. Coal seam
is persistent over most of the area in all the blocks. The seam attains a maximum thickness of 36
meters. The commutative thickness of the coal beds range from 0.2 to 3.6 meters. Coal samples were
systematically collected from coal seam of the Bara formation from the Thar coal bore holes.
Vertically each sample was taken at the interval of one meter.
A total of 270 representative samples of Thar coal from all four blocks have been investigated for
Proximate and ultimate parameters including combustion properties. Among these 13 each from block I &
block II and 14 each from block III & IV. Sample collection and preparation, analytical procedures
including proximate, ultimate, Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy and Spectra photometry were all
conducted according to ASTM procedures and US Geological Survey (USGS) guidelines. (Flow chart) At
the same time 22 representative Coal-Ash samples from all four blocks were analyzed for heavy trace
elements including Pb, Zn, Cd, Cu, Co, Ni, Cr, Fe, Mn and As as per ASTM methods. The main mineral
components were also determined in this study are Silicon dioxide, aluminum oxide, ferric oxide, titanium
dioxide, phosphorus pentaoxide, calcium oxide, magnesium oxide, sodium oxide, and potassium oxide.

Composition, Trace Element Contents and Major Ash Constituents of Thar Coal, Pakistan

95

5. The Basic Characteristics of Raw Coal


The coal samples from the coal seams are mainly lignite coal. In the raw coal ashes accounts for 2.34
to 20.31% Ash, 34.52 to 51.65 % Moisture, 6.96 to 22.95% Fixed Carbon, 25.82 to 33.43 % Volatile
Matter, Heat yield is 48.44 to 66.27 BTU/ Lb, .The sulfur contents in Bara formation Coal seams of
Thar is 0.46 to 9.94% .The major minerals in coal are Silicon dioxide, aluminum oxide, ferric oxide,
titanium dioxide, phosphorus pentaoxide, calcium oxide, magnesium oxide, sodium oxide, and
potassium oxide (Table 2).

6. The Basic Characteristics of Coal Ash


Ash content of coal in the non combustible residue left after coal is burnt. It represents the bulk mineral
matter after carbon, oxygen, sulphur and water including (from Clays) has been driven off during
combustion. The yield of coal ashes and their geochemical properties determine the quality of coal and
its forming conditions. It is found from the analytical results of raw coal ashes that the ash yield of coal
seam of the Bara Formation ranges from 2.34 % to 20.31%. According to the standards for the
classification of coal ashes in Pakistan, coal ashes from this region belong to be B type. (Table 2)
6.1. Chemical Composition of Coal Ashes
The analysis of coal ash may be carried out to determine not only the composition of coal ash but also
levels at which trace elements occur in ash. Such data is useful for environmental impact modeling.
The chemical composition of coal ashes depends on the composition of inorganic minerals and
organic matter in coal. In the process of coal combustion organic and inorganic matter will be liberated
and changed. A part of them will be released as volatiles together with coal smoke into atmosphere and
another parts of them , which are present in flying ash, dust and micro grains, will find their way as
solid particles into atmosphere and another part of them will remain in ashes slag. Some chemical
components in the inorganic matter of ashes are derived from organic matter in the coal and will be
present as a new phase and mineral components in the ashes. (Table 2)
The chemical analysis of raw coal ash contents of various minerals are listed in Table 2. From
the analysis it is found that the region are characterized as being high in Al2O3 and SiO2 but low in
Fe2O3 and CaO contents , with minor amount of SO3 and MnO.
Ash is calculated with the formula
CaO + MgO
MO =
Sio2 + Al 2O3
The minimum Value obtained is 4.84 and the maximum value is 40.37. MO is less then unity
indicative of acidic coal ashes.
The mean, minimum, maximum and standard deviations are shown in Table 4 and 5 for
proximate analysis (as determined and as received). Descriptive statistical analysis for ultimate
analysis (as determined and as received) is tabulated in Table 6 and 7 and comparative study of all the
four blocks as received is indicated in Table 8.

7. Correlation Analyses
Correlation analysis is applied to the multivariate data set to investigate the degree of similarities and
probable interrelations among the chemical and physical parameters (Nurken, 1997).
Correlation coefficient between the variables for proximate and ultimate (as determined, as
received) were calculated and listed in Table 9-12. Statistical analysis for the determination of
correlation coefficient has been calculated. An overall view of the correlation mean results reveals that
the numbers of parameters are not correlating with each other and which are correlated indicated by
bold faces in the Table 9-12, suggesting that they are dependent on each other.

96

M. Afzal Farooq Choudry, Yasmin Nurgis, Mughal Sharif,


Amjad Ali Mahmood and Haq Nawaz Abbasi

The values obtained in proximate analyses (as determined and as received) suggesting that
those variables which are correlating are similar in both types of analysis, indicating that energy values
are dependent on volatile matter whereas the ash contents depend on % of sulfur in coal.
The strong correlation existing between carbon: hydrogen and ash: sulfur in ultimate analyses
(as determined and as received), pointing out that these variables are dependent on each other.
Table 1:

Stratigraphic Sequence in the Thar Coal Field (Jaleel et al.,1999)

Formation
Dune sand
UN CONFORMITY

Age
Recent

Thickness
14 to 93m

Lithology
Sand, silt, clay

Alluvial deposit

Sub recent

11 to 209m

Sandstone, siltstone, claystone,


mottled

Middle Paleocene to Early


Eocene

0 to 185m

Claystone, shale, coal,


sandstone, carbonaceous
claystone

Pre-cambrian

Granite, Gabbro and Diorite,

UN CONFORMITY
Bara formation, Ranikot group
UN CONFORMITY
Nagar Parkar Granite
(Basement complex)

Table 2:
No
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22

Coal ash analysis of Thar coal

SiO2
57.78
10.50
51.95
15.75
4.60
6.33
41.75
15.20
55.76
54.61
51.05
12.06
20.40
23.04
13.78
31.40
47.28
25.46
20.08
1.32
5.94
31.22

Table 3:

TiO2
0.16
0.01
0.45
0.08
0.15
0.08
0.11
0.50
0.75
0.60
0.53
1.10
0.20
0.15
0.24
0.40
0.40
0.41
0.02
0.01
0.41
0.33

Al2O3
23.17
5.44
28.69
13.36
8.34
9.43
31.57
9.14
40.34
36.70
36.72
18.01
12.10
1.50
0.80
12.90
30.05
8.80
11.80
0.52
16.01
29.02

Fe2O3
8.59
53.64
6.38
13.53
8.57
16.73
2.47
6.07
1.08
6.93
8.10
0.51
23.00
47.00
39.74
34.36
16.40
20.02
11.40
75.42
5.03
2.65

MnO
0.07
0.01
0.06
0.14
0.23
0.16
0.08
0.23
Traces
Traces
0.04
0.48
0.08.
0.08
0.08
0.07
0.05
0.13
0.24
0.11
0.32
0.23

MgO
1.89
3.07
2.57
8.78
13.84
11.34
2.86
10.61
0.01
0.01
0.85
0.01
6.40
2.80
4.43
2.80
0.40
8.80
2.40
2.80
0.40
1.20

CaO
4.00
7.80
6.58
18.01
29.62
21.09
7.52
27.04
0.97
0.70
0.70
48.95
17.30
12.33
16.80
8.90
3.30
14.02
28.00
9.50
35.80
18.30

Na2O
1.07
2.97
2.67
4.24
5.48
4.06
1.89
7.02
0.32
1.06
1.10
1.21
3.35
2.69
3.26
2.20
1.15
2.70
1.60
4.00
4.10
4.04

K2O
0.20
0.15
0.17
0.28
0.35
0.24
0.32
0.57
0.24
0.09
0.11
0.96
0.42
0.26
0.44
0.30
0.13
0.25
0.48
0.11
0.54
0.45

SO3
2.46
14.24
0.39
21.87
27.40
29.85
6.68
20.03
Traces
Traces
0.10
16.54
Traces
Traces
Traces
Traces
Traces
Traces
Traces
Traces
Traces
Traces

Average Thar Coal analysis

Coal Quality
Moisture (AR)
Ash (AR)
Volatile Matter (AR)
Fixed Carbon (AR)
Sulphur (AR)
Heating Value (Btu/Lb.)
As Received
Dry

Lignite A-B %
43.24 - 49.01%
5.18 - 6.56%
26.50 - 3.04%
19.35 - 22.00%
0.92 - 1.34%
5780 - 6398
10723 - 11353

P2O5
Traces
Traces
Traces
Traces
Traces
Traces
Traces
Traces
Traces
Traces
Traces
Traces
16.29
10.01
20.00
6.86
0.25
19.57
22.80
5.83
30.58
13.00

Moisture
0.82
1.44
0.05
3.66
0.46
0.30
4.32
3.51
0.41
0.49
0.67
0.20
0.50
0.35
0.45
0.50
0.50
0.35
0.50
0.52
0.42
0.45

Composition, Trace Element Contents and Major Ash Constituents of Thar Coal, Pakistan
Table 4:

Descriptive statistic of proximate analysis (as determinant)

Variable
Moisture
Ash%
Volatile
Fixed Ca
Sulphur%
Energy V

Table 5:

N
54
54
54
54
54
54

N
54
54
54
54
54
54

N
54
54
54
54
54
54
54

Max
25.660
29.340
53.500
35.080
13.850
010850

St. Dev
4.787
6.681
3.501
3.919
2.966
00760

Mean
44.301
6.8270
29.549
19.206
1.6830
6094.2

Min
32.120
2.3400
24.570
6.9600
0.4400
4844.0

Max
51.650
20.310
36.230
23.020
9.9400
7063.0

St. Dev
4.287
4.639
2.638
2.408
2.087
480.8

Mean
51.186
4.9681
0.3094
2.4530
10.238
15.922
14.880

Min
34.880
3.1100
0.1200
0.6400
4.0000
2.4700
5.6400

Max
62.210
5.8800
0.8700
13.870
29.340
25.660
35.950

St. Dev
6.4940
0.7218
0.1311
2.9460
6.6810
4.8400
5.9590

Max
42.070
8.0000
0.5800
9.9400
20.310
19.950
52.780

St. Dev
4.0810
0.6674
0.0905
2.0740
4.6390
3.5840
5.5420

Descriptive statistic of ultimate analysis (as receive)

Variable
Carbon
Hydrogen
Nitrogen
Sulfur
Ash
Moisture
Oxygen

Table 8:

Min
2.4700
4.0000
38.560
10.050
0.6500
07670

Descriptive statistic of ultimate analysis (as determent)

Variable
Carbon
Hydrogen
Nitrogen
Sulfur
Ash
Moisture
Oxygen

Table 7:

Mean
15.830
10.228
44.668
29.107
2.4860
09216

Descriptive statistic of proximate analysis (as receive)

Variable
Moisture
Ash%
Volatile
Fixed Ca
Sulphur%
Energy V

Table 6:

97

N
54
54
54
54
54
54
54

Mean
33.832
7.0274
0.2061
1.6630
6.8320
10.573
39.850

Min
24.450
5.0100
0.0800
0.4400
2.3400
1.7200
28.670

Proximate analyses of Thar coal as received (average), comparative

S No

Area

Moisture %

Ash %

1.
2.
3.
4.

Block I
Block II
Block III
Block IV

44.07
49.01
45.41
43.02

6.18
5.18
6.14
6.57

Volatile
Matter %
33.04
26.50
28.51
29.04

Fixed
Carbon %
22.00
19.35
19.56
21.61

Sulfur %
0.92
1.05
1.12
1.20

Heating Value
(BTU/lb)
6398
5780
5875
5971

98

Table 9:

Ash
Volatile
Fixed C
Sulfur
Energy V

M. Afzal Farooq Choudry, Yasmin Nurgis, Mughal Sharif,


Amjad Ali Mahmood and Haq Nawaz Abbasi
Correlation of proximate analysis as determinant
Moisture %
-0.695
-0.255
0.269
-0.432
-0.058

Ash %

Volatile %

Fixed Ca %

Sulfur %

-0.351
-0.666
0.589
-0.581

0.020
-0.241
0.797

-0.237
0.416

-0.351

Ash %

Volatile %

Fixed Ca %

Sulfur %

-0.120
-0.607
0.625
-0.411

-0.056
0.026
0.818

-0.096
0.268

-0.114

Table 10: Correlation of proximate analysis as receive


Ash%
Volatile
Fixed Ca
Sulfur%
Energy V

Moisture %
-0.747
-0.467
0.269
-0.624
-0.179

Table 11: Correlation of ultimate analysis (as determent)

Hydrogen
Nitrogen
Sulfur
Ash
Moisture
Oxygen

Carbon %
0.885
0.234
-0.438
-0.566
0.184
-0.486

Hydrogen %

Nitrogen %

Sulfur %

Ash %

Moisture %

0.173
-0.417
-0.420
0.160
-0.524

-0.083
-0.253
0.205
-0.146

0.589
-0.436
-0.305

-0.693
-0.190

-0.034

Table 12: Correlation of ultimate analysis (as receive)


Hydrogen
Nitrogen
Sulfur
Ash
Moisture
Oxygen

Carbon %
0.462
0.275
-0.266
-0.459
0.369
-0.549

Hydrogen %

Nitrogen %

Sulfur %

Ash %

Moisture %

0.019
-0.450
-0.425
-0.156
0.163

-0.036
-0.221
0.262
-0.192

0.627
-0.337
-0.429

-0.575
-0.310

-0.297

Figure 1: Showing the % of Minerals (Mean average)


C o m p o s itio n o f A s h
0 .3 2
3
2 .7

3
S iO 2

3 .6
2 7 .1 5
4 .5

A l2 O 3
F e2O 3
C ao
MgO

4 .8

S O3
K 2O

N a2O
M nO
P 2O 5
T iO 2
1 8 .5

1 7 .5

Composition, Trace Element Contents and Major Ash Constituents of Thar Coal, Pakistan
Figure 2: Showing the % of different variables of Thar coal (as-determent).

Carb o n

H y d ro g e n

N i tro g e n

Su lfu r

As h

M o istu re

O xyg e n

Figure 3: Showing the % of different variables of Thar coal (as-receive).

C a rb o n

H y d ro g en

N i tro g e n

Su l fu r

A sh

M o i s tu re

O xy g en

99

100

M. Afzal Farooq Choudry, Yasmin Nurgis, Mughal Sharif,


Amjad Ali Mahmood and Haq Nawaz Abbasi
Figure 4: Flow Chart showing sequence of Sample Preparation and Chemical Analysis
Raw Coal as Received
(about 2.5 kg, broken to 3 cm)
About 100 gm of coal split out for

Air dried

standard coal analysis crushed to 60 mesh

(D-2013, D-3302)

Residual Moisture(D 3302)

Crushed to 8 mesh

Sample pulverized to 60 mesh


Ultimate and Proximate Analysis following ASTM

(100 150 gm)

Ultimate Analysis

Proximate Analysis

Pulverized Coal (25 gm to 75 gm)

LD 3176

D 3172 to D 3175

Ashed at 525C and % ash calculated

Through D 3179

% moisture

Moisture (D-3302)

D 3302

Volatile Matter

Coal Ash

Fixed carbon & Ash

O
N

ICP- AES

S (Total) D 4239c

Acid Digest
Na2O

Calorific value D-1989

Sinter
SiO2 K2O Al2O3 Fe2O3
CaO TiO2 MgO P2O5

Figure 5: Histogram showing the comparative proximate analysis of four blocks as-received (Thar coal).

60

Percentage (%)

50
40
30
20
10
0
I

II

III

IV

Block
Moisture %

Ash %

Volatile Matter %

Fixed Carbon %

Sulphur %

Composition, Trace Element Contents and Major Ash Constituents of Thar Coal, Pakistan

101

Figure 6: Histogram showing the comparative heating values of four blocks as received (Thar coal).

Heating Value (BTU/lb)

6400
6200
6000
5800
5600
5400
1I

2
II

3
III

4
IV

Block

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