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Nearly fifty concerned citizens, local officials and area farmers attended the February 11th “Informal Conference” held by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Office of Mines and Minerals in Hillsboro at the Montgomery County Historic Courthouse.
Hillsboro Energy, LLC has submitted an application for a Significant Revision No. 2 to Permit 399 for Deer Run Mine.
An “Informal Conference” is supposed to be an opportunity for questions and answers regarding a new coal mine permit application, revision, or renewal. Per the federal Surface Mining Control, Reclamation and Enforcement Act an Informal Conference can serve to answer questions regarding a new mine permit so there is no need for a Public Hearing on the application.
Needless to say, citizens have also requested a Public Hearing as many of their questions were not answered. The Public Hearing has been scheduled by Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Office of Mines and Minerals on March 24th at 5 p.m. at the Montgomery County Historic Courthouse.
Below are some key issues and concerns raised at the Informal Conference:
1. In spite of being shut down due to an ongoing underground mine fire, the mine has applied for a 7,731.8 acre expansion for underground mining in the shadow area. This huge increase in available coal mining area is nearly double the size of the originally permitted underground mining area. Thousands of acres of prime flat farmland are included in this longwall mining application and hence will be subject to subsidence if this new permit is approved.
2. If Deer Run Mine is expanded, there was a request not to use the 2 existing impoundments for storage of coal waste. The two slurry impoundments upon failure would damage Hillsboro Lake and many homes and businesses as shown by the inundation maps.
3. Many citizens were concerned about water resources being contaminated and compromised to the extent that the stream could not be used for cattle or wildlife. After coal has been mined for 5 years at Deer Run Mine, surface waters around Deer Run Mine are contaminated as indicated by their high conductivity.
4. The mine also proposes to subside (drop the surface of the land unevenly four to six feet with permanent earthquake-like impacts) on the western edges of Coffeen Lake, which is an IDNR Fish and Wildlife area. Bear Creek and McDavid Branch will also be subsided. Although there will be material damage to water resources and farmland from subsidence, there is no additional bonding planned for the proposed expansion at Deer Run Mine.
5. Local farmers expressed again their concerns about long-term drainage problems and they questioned how subsided farmland would be reclaimed. It became apparent that there is no formulated plan on how the water drainage on subsided land would be handled and certainly no timeframe for completion.
6. Area citizens have worries that the mine processing plant producing air pollution and causing health risks would only be prolonged with an expansion. There is no change with the expansion in the lifetime air permit which does not monitor air on or off the mine site. Residents have endured coal dust, fumes, and noxious odors and these unhealthy events would be increased with the additional 7,731.8 acres.
7. With an approved expansion, the mine will be able to extract coal for several decades as long as Hillsboro Energy, LLC renews the permit every 5 years. The fiscal solvency of Deer Run Mine was questioned. There were worries about who would pay future costs of reclamation after the mine closes.
8. The potential of longwall mining under the land will lower area property values and quality of life. Many of the mineral rights of landowners were severed years, decades, or even a century ago from their surface land. The rights of landowners are superseded by the rights of Deer Run Mine.
Excerpts of citizen testimony and state agency responses are at the video link below, thanks to the work of Pam and Lan Richart of Eco-Justice, Champaign, Illinois.
Time: Thursday, February 11th at 5:00 p.m.
PROPOSED 7,731.8 ACRE EXPANSION OF THE MINE RAISES CONCERNS AS MINE FIRE CONTINUES TO BURN UNDERGROUND
Attend this Illinois Department of Natural Resources Public Informal Conference regarding the proposed mine expansion of Deer Run Mine. Comments and questions can be made at the meeting.
Questions that demand answers:
1. Even though the mining will be about 500 feet underground, the new, proposed 7,731.8 acre longwall mine expansion to the south will pull the coal out from a huge area, sinking much of the surface land up to six or more feet. The farmland will sink unevenly over a very large area. Who pays if farmers lose land productivity and if their farming costs go up because of this?
This proposed 7,731.8 acre expansion is Deer Run Mine Permit 399 Significant Revision No.2. A copy of the expansion application is located at the Montgomery County Clerk’s Office or can be viewed on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources web site, Mines and Minerals Land Reclamation.
Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement
RE: Docket ID: OSM-2010-0018, Proposed Stream Protection Rule,
The proposed stream protection rules should be implemented, and in addition, appropriate requirements that would mandate full compliance with the Clean Water Act should be enacted. Moreover, material damage produced from mining should include not only water resource damage, but total economic loss to coalfield citizens.
There are 2 active coal mines near the homes of Citizens Against Longwall Mining members. Shay 1 Mine in Carlinville, Illinois and Deer Run Mine in Hillsboro, Illinois. Both mines have contaminated water resources, damaged farmland and diminished air quality.
Shay 1 Mine, the prior Monterey 1 Mine owned by Exxon-Mobil, was purchased by Chris Cline/Foresight Energy Group and approved in 2009 for active coal production. Monterey 1 Mine had contaminated groundwater and off-site surface waters for many years due to leakage from 2 coal slurry impoundments. It is unacceptable that the water violations did not prevent the Illinois Department of Natural Resources/Office of Mines and Minerals from approving the permit that allowed additional coal slurry to be placed into the offending impoundments.
IDNR/OMM proceeded over time to approve importation of coal ash and to establish underground coal slurry injection at Shay 1 Mine. The unacceptable contamination issues still exist and this has resulted in the Attorney General’s Office decreeing a trench assembly to be constructed to facilitate the pumping of contaminated water for treatment prior to discharge. This has not been established yet, but is planned.
There is a pending permit (Revision 11 of Permit 56) that would expand Shay 1 Mine by 10,015 acres. Many residents in Macoupin County are very concerned about the proposed plan to room and pillar mine under the 2 Gillespie Lakes that are the only drinking water resources for thousands of residents. IDNR/OMM routinely rubber stamps coal mine permit applications regardless of citizens’ objections and risks. Citizens are legitimately concerned that 40-50 years later there will be subsidence with no bonding available to compensate for damage. They have already lost an almost newly built school due to subsidence from prior coal mining. The coal operator that produced the subsided mine voids was no longer in business. The legacy costs of coal are not addressed for communities that have unplanned subsidence and ground water damage that will occur for future generations.
Deer Run Mine is also owned by Chris Cline/Foresight Energy with recent financial holdings by Robert Murray Energy. This longwall mine is located in the City of Hillsboro, Illinois with the coal processing plant next door to Hillsboro Hospital, a nursing home, and a day care center. The mine discharges into Structure 5 that flows into Central Park Creek and meanders through Hillsboro past the Middle and High Schools. The chemical content, concentrations, and total accumulation from the mine discharge are not known, but the electrical conductivity of water in Central Park Creek is high and at unacceptable levels. Water quality standards are seriously not being protected with the present regulations as applied in Illinois.
The damage to farmland by subsidence from longwall mining has not only been a nonissue, but the proposed methods to mitigate the 5-6 feet sunken areas are absent from approved Permits 399, Significant Revision 1 of 399, and Renewal of 399, and Permit 422 . There are still no proposed drainage plans after 7 years beyond the promise that these problems will be managed. IDNR/OMM ignored the Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation’s concerns about drainage issues from subsidence and its suggestion that the first impoundment be relocated out of the watershed of Hillsboro Lake, a public drinking water source. Long term, longwall mining will severely affect the agricultural industry in Illinois since coal is located in two/thirds of the state.
One of the most dangerous legacies in Montgomery County is the permanent placement of the coal slurry impoundments in the community. Hundreds of acres of cropland are lost to coal slurry impoundments that can leak, erode coal dust, and fail over time. There was no risk assessment in determining the location of Deer Run Mine’s second impoundment that upon failure will inundate the City of Hillsboro to the west, Schram City to the north, several major streams and hundreds of acres of farmland to the south, and the first coal slurry impoundment to the east. This inundation threat and forever risk to several communities reflect the tragic, inappropriate, and harmful control coal has on our regulatory agencies.
Through manipulation by the coal industry and a lack of enforcement by regulatory agencies, there is a failure of proper protection of coalfield communities. The fact that under SMCRA the Clean Air Act is not enforced and fugitive emissions are a nonissue is an insult to the health and development of a community. The health damage from particulate matter alone is well established, but coal dust has harmful metals and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that endanger health even more. Coalfield citizens tragically do not have their right to a healthful life as should be ensured and protected by regulatory agencies.
If coal mining is to mitigate its damage in the U.S., the health, safety, and financial well being of communities must be protected by federal mining laws and enforced by state regulators. Stronger enforcement of SMCRA is essential for the quality of life in communities and the continued extraction of coal.
Thank you for your many efforts and for proposing the new stream protection rules.