Sunrise Coal likely to get one-year extension on state application

Sunrise Coal likely to get one-year extension on state application

SIDELL — With a deadline looming, it's likely the state will grant Sunrise Coal another year to address changes in its Bulldog mine application.

The Terre Haute, Ind., mining company has had nearly a year to meet a request from the state Office of Mines and Minerals for more information detailing plans for a new underground mine in western Vermilion County near the towns of Allerton and Sidell, and Homer in Champaign County.

Last spring, rather than denying or approving the Sunrise permit, the state office asked the coal company for about 60 modifications in its application, some significant. The lengthy application had already been through a long review by the state, a public-comment phase and a public hearing that drew more than 100 people — some in support of the mine and the jobs it would create and others in opposition, who fear it will damage the environment, water resources and farmland.

Sunrise responded last summer with draft modifications to the state's request, and since then, the state has been awaiting final amendments to the application.

But on March 20, Sunrise's one year will come to an end, and with that deadline imminent, the company submitted to the state, just days ago, a letter requesting the one-year extension, according to Scott Fowler, land reclamation division supervisor.

Fowler said the company has the ability to ask for an extension, and the department has the ability to grant one. And that's the direction the department is leaning, he said.

If Sunrise were to meet the March 20 deadline, then the next step would be for the state to either approve or deny the company's mine permit application.

But Fowler said he expects the official decision to grant the time extension to come within days.

"I don't see any reason not to give them the time," he said.

Sunrise officials did not return calls from The News-Gazette seeking comment.

The company indicated in its letter, according to state officials, that due to the complexity of the modifications requested and the need to hire a new consulting engineering firm, more time is needed.

Fowler said one of the more significant modification requests by the state involves Sunrise hiring a second engineering firm to review the company's planned construction of a coal refuse impoundment. He said there is a lot of engineering in the design of that structure, and the state wants to ensure that it's safe and designed correctly.

Sunrise Coal, which operates other coal mines in southwestern Indiana, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hallador Energy Co., based in Denver. Sunrise originally applied for the Bulldog mine permit in June 2012 and anticipated having the mine operational by 2016.

According to the company, it has already purchased 400 acres in Vermilion County for the surface operation and leased the mineral rights to more than 19,500 acres, which it plans to mine using the room-and-pillar method that leaves some of the coal seam in place to support the ground above and lessen subsidence.

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