Vermilion County officials set to listen to group's concerns about mining

Vermilion County officials set to listen to group's concerns about mining

DANVILLE – Vermilion County officials plan to hear tonight the concerns of some local landowners who oppose coal-mining activities and take their comments under consideration, but the board has no legal ability to stop a new mine.

Representatives with Stand Up To Coal, a voluntary organization that opposes coal mining, and local landowners are planning to attend the Vermilion County Board meeting tonight to present their concerns over what they believe is a threat to farmland, clean water, and the health and quality of life of rural residents.

Sunrise Coal LLC, an Indiana-based company, has leased the mineral rights of local landowners and has been exploring a coal reserve in southwestern Vermilion County. The company recently decided that it is a mineable reserve, according to Suzanne Jaworowski, communications director for Sunrise.

Charles Goodall with Stand Up To Coal said speakers will illustrate existing damages from coal mining, toxic coal slurry and coal ash waste disposal and ask the board to take action to stop present threats from new coal mining to the county's resources.

The board meets at 6 p.m. today at the Vermilion County Courthouse Annex, 6 N. Vermilion St., Danville.

Vermilion County Board Chairman Jim McMahon said he's willing to yield the entire 30-minute public comment period to the group with the board's consent, but the board would not vote tonight on any coal-mine resolution, because it's not on the agenda. He said he will take any resolution under advisement, but the county has no legal authority to halt mining activity. Vermilion County has no countywide zoning, so a new mining operation would not go through any county zoning process.

"If we do anything with this resolution, it will come through the county's executive committee as an item of discussion and may be brought to the board, but the board has no power or legal authority with it. Without a land usage policy, this would be nothing more than a 'yeah, we do want it' or 'no, we don't want it,'" McMahon said.

Jaworowski said the company determined last week that it's a mineable coal reserve, but they still don't know certain details, including where the surface operation would be.

Jaworowski said Sunrise officials have met with Goodall and representatives of the Prairie Rivers Network to discuss their concerns about land and water issues and let them know the company tries to go beyond what the law says it must do. She said the company answered all of their questions and asked them for suggestions on how to address their concerns.

Jaworowski said it's a mineable reserve, and some company will come in and mine it, so it's better that it be a company like Sunrise that's friendly and open to the cause of opponents rather than a big company from outside the region.

"They don't disagree with Sunrise, they disagree with the laws in place," she said. "That's not our issue. We operate within the law, and we are not going to poison the waters, and we have a nonsubsidence plan."

According to Stand Up To Coal, the mine would be on some of Illinois' best farmland, raising long-term concerns about damage to drainage from subsidence, and it would be close to Sidell, Allerton, Homer and Fairmount, which rely on groundwater for their water supplies, along with rural residents.

Jaworowski said a coal mine that produces 3 million tons of coal per year uses about 180,000 gallons of water per day, and the majority of that water is pumped into the mine to spray on the miners and equipment. She said the water for this mine would likely be piped in from an outside source, but the company does not yet know that source.

Jaworowski said that by law, the coal mine cannot affect the quality or quantity of water in the area, and premine monitoring wells would be developed to create benchmarks for quality and quantity of water in the area. The coal company, the state and an independent firm monitor the wells to ensure quality and quantity benchmarks are maintained, she said.

Also, Jaworowski said the coal mine is legally required to capture all surface water on the property, including rain water, and it would be routed to a sediment pond with a discharge point monitored by the coal company, the state and the independent third-party firm to ensure that the water released meets drinking-water standards.

Jaworowski also said the mine would get a nonsubsidence permit.

According to Sunrise officials, the majority of subsidence issues are caused by old mines developed in the late 1800s or early 1900s, and Sunrise uses modern engineering and data to design a room-and-pillar underground mine that leaves as much as half the coal in place to support the surface above. In that method, a mined area resembles a room with pillars, the rooms being the empty space where coal was removed, and the pillars being the coal left in place for support.

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RamaSita wrote on March 09, 2011 at 12:03 am

Translation: We are happy to be paid (they are paid per meeting) to "listen" to you, but that is all we will do. Thanks for the paycheck.