Cline Coal’s Hillsboro Energy, LLC is nearing completion on their Deer Run Mine, which will be one of the largest longwall mining operations Illinois has ever seen. We are extremely concerned that the mine will have negative consequences on the community of Hillsboro and the surrounding farmland. For that reason we continue to pursue an administrative review to challenge the Illinois Department of Natural Resource’s decision to issue a permit to mine for Deer Run.
Sinking the Heartland
Unlike traditional room and pillar mining techniques – which leave support pillars of coal in place – longwall mining removes the entire coal seam in panels that are over 1,000 ft wide and can extend for miles. As the working face advances, hydraulic roof supports are removed, causing the overlying layers to collapse. The coal seam that will be mined at the Deer Run Mine in Hillsboro, Illinois is roughly 7 feet thick, and will be mined in panels that are 1,400 ft wide. This will cause the surface above each mined out panel to drop by about 6ft.
Much of the surface above the Deer Run Mine is currently flat farmland with finely tuned drainage systems. As we have seen at the Shay I Mine in neighboring Macoupin County, subsidence due to longwall mining will completely alter the drainage patterns of the subsided lands, leading to a bathtub effect where lands that previously drained will fill up with standing water.
Although Hillsboro Energy has promised to repair the damage they do to the surface of the land, we landowners are frustrated that we have no recourse to prevent them from damaging the land in the first place. The land will never be what it once was after the coal company has dug massive trenches to re-work the drainage. Farmers should not have to the fix coal company’s mess.
In 2004 Montgomery County sold over 120,000 acres of coal rights to Colt LLC of West Virginia for $7.5 million. Most of these coal rights were severed from the surface property decades ago. The sale proceeded with little opportunity for public comment, and without offering landowners the option to purchase back their coal rights.
The City of Hillsboro has since annexed the land where the Deer Run Mine’s surface facility is located, anticipating high property tax revenues from the mine. Unfortunately this windfall has not materialized. In 2010 the Hillsboro School District was faced with a massive budget shortfall because revenues from the mine – which were originally expected to reach $1.5 million annually – were only expected to be $100,000.