Decade-long Fight to Stop Illinois’ Last New Coal Mine Succeeds
Illinois DNR Allows Sunrise Coal’s Bulldog Mine Permit 429 to Expire
Vermilion County, Illinois – In a momentous victory for Illinois water and community activism, the permit for Sunrise Coal’s proposed Bulldog Mine has expired due to lack of use, effectively killing what would have been Illinois’ last new coal mine. The permit, issued by Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), was granted in April 2019 but required the mine to begin operations in some form (even a parking lot would have sufficed) by April 2022 or expire. Sunrise Coal did not break ground or request an extension, and the land reclamation bond has been returned, signaling a permanent end to the proposed mine.
Efforts to stop the Bulldog Mine began over a decade ago when local and regional community members joined together to form Stand Up To Coal (SUTC), a 100% grassroots and volunteer organization. Prairie Rivers Network supported SUTC’s fight to stop the mine from the outset, joining them at public hearings, planning community gatherings, and preparing comments on the potential mine’s impact.
The proposed Bulldog Mine near Homer and Sidell could have caused significant environmental harm in the area and negatively impacted nearby communities. The proposed mine endangered private wells and could have contaminated groundwater due to coal slurry impoundments on the site. Subsidence could have altered the flow of water leading to flooding. Local residents would have suffered from airborne coal dust pollution while nearby streams were poisoned by mine discharge. The Salt Fork of the Vermillion River, beloved for its beauty, biological diversity, and recreational opportunities, would have received discharges from this mine through its tributary, the Olive Branch.
“This victory has taken years of sustained efforts working side-by-side with other organizations and individuals planning, communicating, attending numerous public meetings and hearings, and much more,” says Suzanne Smith of Stand Up To Coal. “The termination of this permit is everything we’ve been fighting for. Our land, our water, and our air are no longer under threat from a future coal mine.”
For years, local residents voiced concerns about the environmental and human health impacts of coal mining – contaminated wells and groundwater, degraded air quality, and a host of leftover toxic chemicals that would remain long after mining ceased.
“This victory is a testament to what community voices can achieve to protect water, protect air, and in the fight against climate change,” says Prairie Rivers Network Water Resources Engineer Andrew Rehn. “The members of Stand Up to Coal should be proud of what they’ve accomplished in stopping the Bulldog Mine. With recent environmental protection setbacks at the national level, local and state activism is going to be more important than ever. Illinois’s last proposed new coal mine is never going to happen, and the state can continue to move towards a clean energy future.”
Stand Up To Coal’s (SUTC) mission is to protect drinking water, high quality productive farmland, and health of communities and natural environments in the Allerton, Broadlands, Fairmount, Homer, and Sidell areas of Champaign and Vermilion Counties in East Central Illinois.
At Prairie Rivers Network (PRN), we protect water, heal land, and inspire change. Using the creative power of science, law, and collective action, we protect and restore our rivers, return healthy soils and diverse wildlife to our lands, and transform how we care for the earth and for each other. PRN is the independent Illinois affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation.