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."