Pastors’ Coalfields Tour of Macoupin and Montgomery Counties

Pastors from a wide area, including Chicago, Central and Southern Illinois, Kentucky and Indiana toured various places in Macoupin and Montgomery County on  April 24-25 under the leadership of Rev. Brian Sauder, Champaign  and Rev. Dr. Claire Butterfield of “Faith in Place” in Chicago. They heard about the moral issues of coal mining and the way it is carried out in Illinois. Pastors heard from Citizens Against Longwall Mining (CALM) members in Montgomery County as well as listened to rural residents of Macoupin County who have been greatly affected by longwall mining. Sierra Club, Prairie Rivers Network and Heartland Coalfield Alliance members were also represented.

The tour began at Virden, Illinois where the group visited the Memorial built for miners. They then set off on the tour, which included sites of longwall mining damage, waste impoundments and streams that have been affected. Loss of farm neighbors is one of the great regrets of one Macoupin County farmer who said, “The Carlinville-Litchfield road has been rebuilt after seven years of closure, but I don’t drive it anymore because all of my neighbors are gone!”

Another farmer pointed out how the ground has dropped four or five feet from a railroad that runs through the land, which has been built up to its original height since the mining.  Large drainage ditches have been dug, in an effort to drain water, but farmers have to drive a long way around them to get to the fields they farm.  Empty farmhouses are often vandalized and have been burned down.

Jeff Biggers, author, and actor gave a program to the group at Hampton Inn following a dinner at Ruby Tuesdays in Litchfield Wednesday night. Biggers signed copies of his book, “Reckoning at Eagle Creek.” He has written a new book which is coming out in September, titled “State Out of the Union,” which he researched recently in Arizona. Biggers is also a writer for Huffington Post, and author of the book, “The United States of Appalachia.”

A Montgomery County farmer narrated a tour of Deer Run Mine area at Hillsboro on Thursday. The mine, and waste impoundment, with a high hazard dam, have been built within the city limit and within sight of Hillsboro Hospital, the prison, a nursing home, and meeting halls, as well as homes. CALM members told of permanent damage of farmland, water pollution, homes destroyed, IDNR favoring coal corporations over citizens rights, and the dragging out of law cases for years, which are some of the issues involved.

Join CALM for Central Illinois Coalfields Tour March 26th

Interested in learning first-hand about the true cost of coal in Illinois? Join citizen activists and water quality professionals from the Heartland Coalfield Alliance for a day-long tour of central Illinois’ coalfields.

Participants will meet in Springfield in the morning and depart as a group on a driving tour of historic and contemporary coal mining sites. The group will learn about the history of the Illinois’ coal industry and organized labor, visiting the small towns where some of the nation’s deadliest labor battles were fought, as well as the only union coal mine left in Illinois today.

From there, we will explore the impacts that the entire coal life cycle has on the lands, waters, health, and quality of life of central Illinois communities. Participants will see areas subsided from longwall mining, massive coal slurry and coal ash dumps, and get the chance to hear directly from local residents who are concerned about coal’s effects.

This tour is intended for concerned Illinois residents who want to learn what they can do to promote a just transition from a coal economy to a sustainable economy in America’s heartland.

What: Driving tour of coal mining and coal waste disposal sites in Macoupin and Montgomery Counties, with information provided by Citizens Against Longwall Mining, local residents, and Heartland Coalfield Alliance members.

When: Saturday March 26th, 10:30 am – 6:45 pm

Where: Event begins and ends in Springfield, IL.

How: Cost is 25$ for transportation (provided), meals not included. Click here to register.

Be sure to check out the Heartland Coalfield Alliance website.