Friday, February 12, 2016

Owner of coal mine where underground fire has burned for a year asks Ill. to approve expansion

The owner of a coal mine in Hillsboro, Ill. (Best Places map), "where an underground fire has smoldered for nearly a year, is asking state regulators to approve an expansion that some local residents fear could jeopardize public health and cause environmental damage," reports Alan Sher Zagier of The Associated Press. Deer Run Mine, located about 65 miles northeast of St. Louis, ceased production in January "after what it calls a 'combustion event' that elevated carbon monoxide levels below ground and kept out workers for most of the past 11 months."

Despite a lack of production Foresight Energy has asked "the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to approve a 7,731-acre expansion into areas unaffected by the fire," Zagier reports. "While such underground fires aren’t uncommon in mines, expansion opponents argue that the company’s inability to get it under control should give pause to the request." The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration says the fire poses no immediate threat.

"Deer Run, which opened in 2011, operates as a longwall mine, a mechanized process in which enormous shearers slice coal from earthen panels that can stretch for several miles," Zagier writes. "The technique allows for greater coal extraction with fewer workers than traditional 'room and pillar' mining while also causing the surface land above to sink by several feet." (Read more)

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