The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) is taking public comment until Jan. 30 on its tentative determination to issue an NPDES water permit for a new waste pond at Hillsboro Energy LLC’s Deer Run longwall mine.
The permit would cover Refuse Disposal Area No. 2, located one mile southeast of Hillsboro, Ill. “A new slurry pond/refuse disposal area will be constructed at this existing underground coal mine.,” said a Dec. 31 IEPA notice. “The existing Pond 005 is nearing capacity for disposal of coal fines and refuse. Two new outfalls will serve sedimentation ponds surrounding the new slurry pond/refuse disposal area. The berms for the ponds will be constructed of coal refuse.”
New Outfalls 008 and 009 will discharge to an unnamed tributary of Watershed Structure Five, which is an impoundment of an unnamed tributary of the Middle Fork Shoal Creek, also known as Central Park Creek. Suspended solids will be treated in the sedimentation ponds. Effluent discharged from these ponds will contain suspended solids loadings that are similar to those occurring from the land in its present use. Sulfates and chlorides will increase in loading to the receiving stream as a result of this activity. This increase in loading is expected to be small given the nature of the runoff from the new area, the agency said. Limits for these substances will be applied and will be set equal to the water quality standards.
“Construction of the new slurry pond/refuse disposal area allows the mine to continue functioning,” said IEPA. “Without the new disposal area, the mine would have to close and the 160 mining jobs and 100 associated jobs would disappear according to the antidegradation assessment. The mine is an important part of the economy of the community.”
Deer Run is one of the new longwall mines of coal operator Chris Cline’s Foresight Energy LLC. U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data shows that after a production start in the fourth quarter of 2010, the mine has had steadily ascending output, from 491,227 tons in 2011, to 2.4 million tons in 2012 and then to 3.9 million tons in the first three quarters of 2013 alone. The mine is listed with MSHA under contractor Patton Mining LLC. The Cline mines in Illinois produce high-sulfur coal for mostly scrubbed U.S. power plants, with some of this coal also moving on the export market.
Foresight has said that Hillsboro, working the Herrin No. 6 coal seam, was designed for an annual productive capacity of 7 million to 9 million tons.