The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

February 17, 2013

Coal company determined to dig in


HOMER — It’s back to square one for an Indiana company that wants to locate a coal mine in southwestern Vermilion County.

Sunrise Coal LLC of Terre Haute, Ind., had its plans hit a snag earlier this week when Homer Village Board members reversed course on several months of talks and nixed a potential agreement to supply water and sewer services for the Bulldog underground coal mine.

The decision leaves Sunrise Coal looking at its other options, according to Suzanne Jaworowski, communications director for Sunrise Coal. She declined to comment on what those other options might be.

Despite terming the water as an “important resource” for the mine, Jaworowski said the Homer Village Board decision would not inhibit plans for the mine.

“It was unfortunate we could not reach a partnership,” Jaworowski said. “But this will not stop the project. We will continue to develop the coal mine.”

Sunrise still expects to be up and operating in 2014.

Jaworowski said Homer was to be the mine’s primary source in terms of sewer service and treated water. She added that any water source brought into future mine plans will meet state and federal regulations.

Finding another village to obtain water from could be difficult, looking at the area surrounding the proposed mine. Homer, with a population of around 1,200 people, was located just a mile from the northwest corner of the planned mine. The nearby towns of Fairmount, Sidell, Allerton and Broadlands are half that population size or less.

The villages near the mine that are most similar in size to Homer are Sidney (7 miles west), Philo (13 miles west) and Oakwood (13 miles northeast).

The mine is proposed to cover the southwestern corner of Vermilion County along and just off of the county line with Champaign County. The northernmost tip is along County Road 90E just south of the Catlin-Homer Road while the southern edge is just south of County Road 300N. The majority of the eastern side of the proposed mine runs along County Road 300E.

The operations center is located on the north and south sides of County Road 800N between County Roads 100E and 200E.

Sunrise has been collecting leases for property since 2009 and holds as much as 19,000 acres of land — the vast majority of which falls in southwest Vermilion County.

According to Vermilion County Recorder’s Office records, Sunrise Coal LLC owns about 100 parcels of land in the southwest area of the county. Of those, 80 are in the townships in or immediately surrounding the Bulldog Mine area — Vance, Jamaica and Sidell — and are listed for undeveloped coal rights.

Another 17 parcels — also indicated in records as undeveloped coal rights — are located in Oakwood and Carroll townships.

The Homer decision adds a hurdle for Sunrise, which is still awaiting review of the application it submitted last year to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Office of Mines and Minerals.

Jaworowski said the application will need to be deemed complete before Sunrise Coal can move forward with plans for the Bulldog Mine.

Chris McCloud, communications director for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said the permit application is undergoing a completeness review that confirms the application is administratively complete before moving on to a full review by state officials.

McCloud said a public review process would take place after the completeness review, allowing residents to look over the application and offer comments regarding the mine. The state then considers any comments, McCloud said, when making its final permit application review.

McCloud was not immediately sure if the loss of the agreement with the village of Homer would affect the completeness review. He theorized such a plan would have to be confirmed with the permit application before it undergoes a formal state review.

There was no timeframe as to when the completeness review would be complete.

Jaworowski said that Sunrise Coal expects the state permit to be approved by late this year.

Calls to the IDNR spokesman in Springfield to determine the status and progress of the Sunshine Coal mine application were not returned last week. Jaworowski confirmed that as of last week there had been no formal review of the permit by state officials.

The number of land agreements with Vermilion County residents is indicative of local support for the mine, according to Sunrise Coal.

“I think that we have over 100 land owners willing to lease their mineral rights to us, which shows good support in the area,” Jaworowski said prior to the Homer Village Board’s vote. “Our supporters aren’t as vocal as the opponents.”

According to Sunrise Coal, the mine is expected to add 300 new jobs to the county. Jaworowski added the company is working with Danville Area Community College to put a training program in place to build a work force from local labor.