The Deer Run Mine’s shadow area – the surface area that will be undermined by the longwall machine – encompasses 4,751 acres to the southeast of Hillsboro. As mining progresses, the landscape will be permanently altered. As the earth below shifts and sinks, everything that is above the coal seam will feel the effects of longwall mining.
Damage to Roads and Buildings
Structures that will likely be damaged due to subsidence include farm houses, barns, and grain bins, as well as the many state and county roads that cross this area such as Illinois Route 185.
Subsidence from longwall mining at the Shay I mine in Macoupin County resulted in the closure for many years of Litchfield Road, a major rural thoroughfare connecting Litchfield and Carlinville. Work is finally progressing to reopen Litchfield Road (with assistance from federal stimulus funds), however many rural roads in the surrounding area remain severely damaged.
Pennsylvania has recently released a report that details the high cost of repairing roads (including$19 million to fix I-79) damaged by longwall mining, and we anticpate similar problems will be encountered here as well.
When the earth below a building’s foundation sinks, the structure is subjected intense strains, which can fracture foundations and support beams. The nearby town of Benld, Illinois encountered this problem when its new elementary school had to be closed because of damage from old room and pillar coal mine subsidence in 2009. In 2010 the Gillespie district received $18.9 million from the state of Illinois to rebuild the damaged Benld Elementary School.
Coal companies that practice longwall mining frequently attempt to buy out residents of rural areas that will be undermined. Often they will tear down a house before undermining it, leaving large areas of the countryside uninhabited.
Residents who do not wish to leave their homes have no choice but to wait for the subsidence damage to occur, and then begin the process of seeking compensation from the coal company.
Damage to Aquifers
Due to the immediate and drastic nature of the subsidence that will take place from the longwall mining, we are concerned that the clean groundwater that rural residents depend on to supply their farms and families will be permanently damaged. Reports indicate that such damage to groundwater can happen due to longwall mining in Illinois, and although companies are supposed to be required to repair any damage they cause, there is no way for residents to prevent the damage from happening in the first place.