Imagine Your Farmland After Longwall Mining

Many farmers sold the rights to mine coal under their fields for much-needed income. They thought they would never see surface impacts since room and pillar (with no planned subsidence) was used for centuries. No farmer knew about future highly mechanized, high extraction coal removal (called longwall mining) that would come decades later, and sink the land for present and future use.

Imagine looking over your life-long farm field where you planted seeds and nurtured the land to yield a good crop for decades. Knowing right now, there is a longwall mining machine below your field several hundred feet down. As the coal is severed from the coal wall, the machine moves forward and the roof collapses behind it. On the surface, you see the cracks form and the depressions in the earth that increase slowly. The surface of the land falls in an uneven pattern and depth depending on the size of the coal seam removed. Layers of earth must find new placement and foundation. With 90% of the coal seam removed, the land falls several feet in an unsettled pattern to fill the void. Anything on the surface is adversely affected by the subsidence: streams, homes, ponds, barns, grain bins, trees, highways, etc. The longwall panels are miles long and several hundred feet wide.

As you look at the sunken field, your heart aches with worry about the land’s future. With rain comes the pooling of water that prevents spring planting. As with many farmlands, the coal rights and subsidence rights were very long ago severed from the land surface causing the land to be vulnerable.
Land is a commodity with a defined purpose. The farmer’s land has a purpose to raise crops. A coal mine owner has a purpose of extracting coal from the land with his coal rights. The conflict between the farmer and coal mine operator occurs when coal extraction interferes with the land’s crop production. Room and pillar method of coal mining is compatible with crop production since no planned subsidence occurs. In stark contrast, when a company is given the authority to use the longwall mining method, the resulting subsidence damages farmland permanently.

Subsidence of flat land creates hills and sunken areas where water has nowhere to drain. The accumulation of water in the sunken areas resembles filling a bathtub. Attempts to direct water flow have been made by digging long drainage ditches. The open fields are now separated by the ditches with erosion of topsoil occurring. The land simply cannot be returned to the condition and viability that existed prior to the subsidence. Compensation for the damage and economic loss must be negotiated with Hillsboro Energy, LLC whose owners already have financial problems after bankruptcies.

Hillsboro Energy, LLC holds subsidence rights and coal rights to land in the Montgomery County Illinois area. After acquiring all the regulatory permits, their mining rights under the land and on the surface had priority over the landowner’s or farmer’s purpose. Since the demand for coal is far less than the demand for food, land use must be reconsidered in the future. The proposed 7,731.8-acre expansion of Deer Run Mine is still pending. With the climate crisis, keeping coal in the ground seems to be a better use of land and resources for the common good.

Phone the Illinois Department of Natural Resources 217-782-6302 and Land Reclamation Division 217-782-4970 and tell them to deny Deer Run Mine’s 7,731.8-acre expansion. Mother Earth appreciates your help.
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