Some coal mine opponents turn their attention to leasing of mineral rights

Some coal mine opponents turn their attention to leasing of mineral rights

CHAMPAIGN — Now that Sunrise Coal has a source for raw water for its proposed new coal mine near Homer, some coal mine opponents are turning their attention to discouraging people who own land around the mine site from leasing their mineral rights to the company.

About 40 people turned out Tuesday at the University YMCA to attend an informational meeting on Sunrise Coal's proposed underground mine, which will be built near the intersection of County Roads 800 North and 100 East in Vermilion County.

The meeting came one day after the Georgetown City Council voted to enter into a 30-year contract with Sunrise Coal to supply production water to the proposed underground mine.

Earlier this spring, the Homer Village Board agreed to supply the mine with up to 20,000 gallons of treated water a day and provide sewer services, but it declined to supply the mine with raw water. Instead, the two wells near Cayuga, Ind., that supply Georgetown with water will now provide up to 500,000 gallons of water a day to the mine to be used for washing the coal and for the mining process.

Traci Barkley, water resources scientist for the Prairie Rivers Network, suggested trying to convince Georgetown officials from signing the final contract.

"As a water resources scientist, we feel the use of water to wash coal and the damage to be done to our rivers is unwarranted," Barkley said. "There are other forms of energy that are less damaging to our waterways.

"As a resident of Urbana and someone who loves the natural waterways around here, this coal mine would impact the community and the productive farmland. I think there are other opportunities for clean energy we should be using."

Susanne Smith of Stand Up to Coal said she was at least pleased that the Salt Fork is protected from water withdrawal because the water will be coming from Georgetown rather than the Salt Fork.

But Jonathan Ashbrook, who lives 3 or 4 miles downstream from the mine site, said he is concerned about the environmental effects of what will come out of the proposed mine.

"To me the coal mine is a personal issue. It directly affects my family," Ashbrook said. "They will put a lot of pollutants in the stream and eventually the Salt Fork. There is going to be a lot of air pollution from coal dust."

Ashbrook called on other coal mine opponents to convince those people who own land around the mine site from leasing their mineral rights to Sunrise Coal.

"We need to discourage people who own land in the area from leasing their mineral rights to the company," he said.

Scott Dossett of Urbana said the fight to stop the coal mine is far from over.

"The question is whether this coal facility is needed at this time at this place using these resources," Dossett said. "If the Georgetown water sale is a done deal, then the citizens of in-town and rural Homer still have their road network, drainage, air quality and polluted runoff as concerns."

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Marti Wilkinson wrote on June 18, 2013 at 11:06 pm

My maternal grandfather used to own a farm adjacent to a small community that sits on the edge of the Illinois/Indiana border and the Wabash river separates the two states. The farm was sold during the 1980's to a coal mining company, and the land is still being mined. The coal is transported across state lines to a coal to gas company in Indiana, and this particular power plant has a cute habit of turning off their coal scrubbers at night. The end result is the town in Illinois has had roofs turn black from coal dust, and concerns with air quality is something that has had an impact on the community. One of my uncles was a coal miner during his lifetime, and he developed black lung as a result of his occupation.

If we look at the Champaign area, the former coal to gas site at 5th and Hill had to be cleaned up by Ameren, and residents in the neighborhood have raised health concerns of their own. A similar clean up took place in Charleston. So I find it hard to believe that the efforts to introduce a coal mine here will be harmless. The technology to developer cleaner electrical resources is available, but it's also cheaper to install a gas furnace than to retrofit a house with solar panels. Being 'green' is still a bit of a luxury in some respects, and I happen to like the creature comforts that come from electricity and gas. For that reason, I consider the fossil fuel industries to be something of a necessary evil. 

I also get that the coal mine can produce 300 jobs, and in a difficult economy people will welcome any kind of industry. Several years ago the town of Hoopeston hung up signs saying "prison welcome" when there were talks about building a prison in the area. Ultimately, a prison did not get built, and many residents have to commute to work in other areas. I just wish we could see our resources be used in creating jobs that don't compromise the environment or add to the decay of once thriving communities.

minengr wrote on June 19, 2013 at 9:06 am

The lies of the Prairie Rivers Network surface again.  

There were two coal mines is this same area that have both closed in the last few years.  Both had NPDES permits, neither caused any damage to the local streams from discharges.    

Run-off from heavily fertilized fields, or out of date septic systems put more harmful "stuff" into streams than a coal mine could hope to.  Look for the recent IEPA report on Georgetown lake for proof.  Coal mines don't discharge fecal coliform or nitrates.

PRN makes it sound like the coal mine wants to purposely pump toxins into a stream.  That is false and they know it.  They probably also haven't mentioned there are water samples taken every time water leaves mine property or that it only happens about six times a year.   Usually the only time a mine would discharge water is after a large parcipitation event.  The mine is typically discharging rain water or snow melt, not some toxin laden sludge.    

 

fossil folly wrote on July 15, 2013 at 1:07 pm

The coal industry is very fortunate.  The most toxic materials in coal are not monitored or prevented from going into the air, land, and water.  Prairie Rivers Network with their water quality professionals are aware that the quality of the NPDES water effluents are not taken seriously by regulatory agencies even when there are hundreds of exceedances.  Surface and ground water sources are accumulating mercury, arsenic, chromium, carcinogenic organic compounds, etc.  These toxins do not disappear.  High hazard coal slurry impoundments are left permanently in communities to inevitably pollute.  I truly wish there was a "war on coal" instead of a war on the environment.