On Oct. 26, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency issued to Arch Coal’s (NYSE: ACI) Prairie Coal Co. LLC a Section 401 Water Quality Certification for the planned Lost Prairie room-and-pillar mine.
This permit is associated with a Section 404 permit application received by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “The applicant has applied for Section 401 water quality certification for impacts associated with the above ground facilities associated with an underground mine,” said a responsiveness summary from the IEPA. “The project area consists of approximately 848 acres located in Sections 29, 30, 31, and 32, T4S, R3W in Perry County. Two portals will be created by construction of the slope along with two airshafts for ventilation. The surface facilities will include roads, a rail load out and transport system, coal and soil stockpiles, coal refuse disposal facilities, preparation plant, an office/maintenance building with parking area, and Sedimentation Pond #1. Sediment Pond #1 is a temporary impoundment and will be reclaimed during the final reclamation process.”
At the request of the Corps, the company relocated an overburden stockpile to an upland area so it would be less environmentally damaging to the streams and wetland. By minimizing development within the valley of Stream 1, impacts to streams and their riparian areas, as well as the upland buffer forest, have been reduced, IEPA noted. The proposed impacts were avoided to the maximum extent practicable, minimized, and the unavoidable impacts are proposed to be compensated for in the mitigation plan.
On Sept. 17, IEPA approved a new NPDES water discharge permit for this same project, located in Perry County, 6.6 miles northwest of Pinckneyville, Ill. A mine permit for the project was issued last year by the Illinois Office of Mines and Minerals. The OMM permit shows this as a room-and-pillar operation that would work the Herrin No. 6 coal seam at a depth underground ranging from 146 to 237 vertical feet within a 3,605-acre “shadow area.” A shadow area is the underground coal reserve area of the mine and is much larger than the surface area impacted by the operation.
An Arch Coal official said at a March 21 IEPA hearing on the draft NPDES permit that the company was in discussion with several unnamed possible steam coal customers for this coal. James Kliche, a mining engineer at Arch Coal, gave an opening statement at the hearing that described the project. “We see market opportunities continue to develop for this coal as more power plants install scrubbers,” Kliche told hearing attenders.
Kliche later added at the March 21 hearing: “We are currently discussing coal supply contracts with several utilities, which would enable the initiation of construction of the mine. The future Lost Prairie mine would infuse Perry County with new jobs and spur economic development. The mine is to be developed once coal commitments are secured in the next one to three years. Mine construction costs will be about $250 [million] to $300 million. Annual coal production will be about three and a half million tons a year. Ultimate mine employment would be 240 to 260 people, with the majority recruited locally from the vicinity in Perry County. Payroll and benefits are anticipated to be about $25 [million] to $30 million a year.”