The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) has made a tentative determination to issue an NPDES permit to discharge into waters of the state at the planned Sunrise Coal LLC Bulldog deep mine project and has prepared a draft permit and associated fact sheet, said the agency in a March 27 public notice.
The agency is taking comment until April 27 on that tentative decision. The mine project is in Vermilion County. This would be the first Illinois mine for Sunrise Coal, a major coal producer in neighboring Indiana.
Said the notice: “The surface permit area contains 390.3 acres of which 322.0 are planned for disturbance. The 322 acres of disturbance consist of 0.5 acres for mine entries and air shafts, 84.4 acres for coal refuse disposal, 43.3 acres for coal processing and support facilities, 7.1 acres for access, haul roads and transport facilities, 47.5 acres for soil storage, 36.0 acres for ditches and ponds, and 103.2 acres for undeveloped support areas. A portal to the underground mine would be created by excavating a slope from the surface to the coal seam. After the mine slope has been completed, the underground mining operation would begin extracting the Herrin No. 6 coal seam utilizing conventional room and pillar mining methods via the use of a continuous miner, shuttle cars and conveyor belts to mine and transport the coal to the preparation plant for processing. At this location the Herrin #6 coal seam averages approximately 5.9 feet in thickness and has overburden of approximately 280 feet in thickness. The projected life of the mine is 20-25 years with total production estimated at 1.2 million tons of coal per year at full production. Coal processing onsite would be accomplished by a heavy media separation coal processing plant.
“A comprehensive assessment of the social and economic benefits was conducted by the Applicant and provided in the document Assessment of Alternatives for Minimal Environmental Degradation and Economic Benefit Analysis, Bulldog Mine, Sunrise Coal, LLC, dated January 13, 2015. In addition to the energy-producing benefits the coal mine would provide, the facility would benefit the community at large by providing jobs, local development, and regional development. Construction of the coal mining facility would generate over $11.9 million in federal taxes and $5.7 million in state and local taxes. Local tax generation would include $400,000 in sales tax revenue and $1.6 million in property tax revenue over the duration of the construction project. The facility would directly create 807 full and part time jobs, and indirectly create 433 full and part time jobs over the duration of the construction project. Once operating, the facility would provide direct employment for 300 employees and indirect employment for 303 employees, with an annual employee compensation in excess of $41.5 million being paid by Vermilion and Champaign Counties. The presence of the coal mining facility would also annually generate $160.4 million in direct and indirect economic activity in these counties. During operation, the coal mine would annually generate $8.3 million in federal taxes and $10.9 million in state and local taxes.”
Said Sunrise Coal parent Hallador Energy about this project in its March 6 annual Form 10-K report: “We have leased roughly 19,300 acres in Vermillion County, Illinois near the village of Allerton. Based on our reserve estimates we currently control 35.8 million tons of coal reserves. A considerable amount of our leased acres has yet to receive any exploratory drilling, thus we anticipate our controlled reserves to grow as we continue drilling. The permitting process was started in the summer of 2011, and we filed the formal permit with the state of Illinois and the appropriate Federal regulators during June 2012. In July 2014, we were notified by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (ILDNR) that our permit had been deemed complete which starts the timeline for the ILDNR public review process. It is our estimation that our permit will be approved or denied in 2015. Full-scale mine development will not commence until we have a sales commitment. We estimate the costs to develop this mine to be $150 million at full capacity of three million tons annually.”