Examining Sunrise Coal’s profit motive may help us see more clearly how Sunrise Coal would operate in our community and why citizens insist on preventing mining here.
A coal company’s general business model is to mine coal as efficiently and cheaply as possible while maximizing the amount of coal it can sell to its customers at a contracted price.
Of course, to make money, Sunrise has many expenses and many “vendors.” The only guarantees that Sunrise provides are in the contracts it makes with its customers and vendors. We know that Sunrise has many contracts with individual landowners for their mineral rights. In most cases, these were negotiated between a corporation and unrepresented landowners.
Sunrise also wants to contract for potable water and sewer with Homer for a gain up to a maximum of about $50,000 per year in revenue to Homer.
Sunrise does not make any contractual guarantees for jobs, residence growth, or business growth. Considerable evidence from other Illinois mining communities indicates that these vague promises don’t come true.
Also, Sunrise has no financial incentive to take care of our natural resources or local villages. And Sunrise has no financial incentive to leave the surface facility and mine area clean when it leaves. History has shown that is how mining companies operate – Murdock is a perfect example. The coal industry itself states that mining Illinois coal is only profitable because regulations are loosely enforced or ignored. Sunrise plans to store slurry from washing coal outside of Homer. Slurry contains mercury and arsenic. It is toxic and can contaminate our local drinking water.
As for employees, another large expense, Sunrise has a documented history of cutting corners on safety. According the Mine Safety and Health Administration, between 2006-2010, Sunrise paid nearly $1,000,000 in safety fines to the federal government. If there were a major accident at the Bulldog Mine, how would that benefit our community?
Some have stated that because a mine is coming, Homer will benefit. Homer is the first choice for water not because Sunrise wants to help the town but because it is the cheapest source. If Sunrise gets its water somewhere else, it will cost considerably more, both in terms of money and time. Every opposing move that causes Sunrise to spend more money and time decreases the likelihood of the mine being financially viable because the expenses become higher compared to the risk and the market time window.
No one questions that it would be great to have a large industry, such as the potential Toyota plant in Fithian a couple of years ago, come to our area. However, why should our community court an industry that has a finite life of 20-30 years and leaves behind environmental damage that takes generations to repair?
We need to make strategic decisions, not decisions under pressure from Sunrise. We don’t have to sell our water to just any company that wants to locate outside our city limits. We can decide ourselves which direction to grow, about which industries to attract and entice. We can decide whether we want to become a mining town with a huge slurry impoundment sitting outside our town forever. Now is the time to think about which kinds of industries we want to save our water for.
Worse, mining would damage the largest industry that we already have – agriculture. Agriculture employs many of our residents. It has been around for generations and will be around for generations to come.
Unfortunately, every service we agree to provide to a mine makes it one step closer to becoming a reality. We want the trustees and mayor of the Village of Homer to realize that real and lasting benefit to the Village of Homer and the surrounding area is unlikely to flow from mining and processing coal. We ask the trustees not to approve an agreement to sell water to Sunrise.
Jonathan Ashbrook, Homer
Charles Goodall, Sidell
Submitted to the Village of Homer January 25th, 2013