Nearly fifty concerned citizens, local officials and area farmers attended the FebruaryÂ 11th “Informal Conference” held by the Illinois Department ofÂ Natural Resources Office of Mines and Minerals in Hillsboro at the Montgomery CountyÂ Historic Courthouse.
Hillsboro Energy, LLC has submitted an application for aÂ Significant Revision No. 2 to Permit 399 for Deer Run Mine.
An “Informal Conference” is supposed to be an opportunity for questions and answersÂ regarding a new coal mine permit application, revision, or renewal. Per the federalÂ Surface Mining Control, Reclamation and Enforcement Act an Informal Conference canÂ serve to answer questions regarding a new mine permit so there is no need for a PublicÂ Hearing on the application.
Needless to say, citizens have also requested a Public Hearing as many of theirÂ questions were not answered. The Public Hearing has been scheduled by IllinoisÂ Department of Natural Resources, Office of Mines and Minerals on March 24th at 5 p.m.Â 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 mineÂ has applied for a 7,731.8 acre expansion for underground mining in the shadowÂ area. This huge increase in available coal mining area is nearly double the sizeÂ of the originally permitted underground mining area. Thousands of acres of primeÂ flat farmland are included in this longwall mining application and hence will beÂ 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 existingÂ impoundments for storage of coal waste. The two slurry impoundments uponÂ failure would damage Hillsboro Lake and many homes and businesses as shownÂ by the inundation maps.
3. Many citizens were concerned about water resources being contaminated andÂ compromised to the extent that the stream could not be used for cattle or wildlife.Â After coal has been mined for 5 years at Deer Run Mine, surface waters aroundÂ 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 toÂ six feet with permanent earthquake-like impacts) on the western edges ofÂ Coffeen Lake, which is an IDNR Fish and Wildlife area. Bear Creek and McDavidÂ Branch will also be subsided. Although there will be material damage to waterÂ resources and farmland from subsidence, there is no additional bonding plannedÂ for the proposed expansion at Deer Run Mine.
5. Local farmers expressed again their concerns about long-term drainageÂ problems and they questioned how subsided farmland would be reclaimed. ItÂ became apparent that there is no formulated plan on how the water drainage onÂ subsided land would be handled and certainly no timeframe for completion.
6. Area citizens have worries that the mine processing plant producing air pollutionÂ and causing health risks would only be prolonged with an expansion. There is noÂ change with the expansion in the lifetime air permit which does not monitor air onÂ or off the mine site. Residents have endured coal dust, fumes, and noxious odorsÂ and these unhealthy events would be increased with the additional 7,731.8Â acres.
7. With an approved expansion, the mine will be able to extract coal for severalÂ decades as long as Hillsboro Energy, LLC renews the permit every 5 years. TheÂ fiscal solvency of Deer Run Mine was questioned. There were worries aboutÂ who would pay future costs of reclamation after the mine closes.
8. The potential of longwall mining under the land will lower area property valuesÂ and quality of life. Many of the mineral rights of landowners were severed years,Â decades, or even a century ago from their surface land. The rights of landownersÂ are superseded by the rights of Deer Run Mine.
Excerpts of citizen testimony and state agency responses are at the video linkÂ below, thanks to the work of Pam and Lan Richart of Eco-Justice, Champaign,Â Illinois.