This beautiful area of Rocky Branch would be damaged by the expansion of a strip mine

This beautiful area of Rocky Branch would be damaged by the expansion of a strip mine

Prairie Rivers Network is supporting “Justice for Rocky Branch,” a strong group of residents fighting back against Peabody Energy’s plan to grow their strip mine in Saline County into the Rocky Branch community, near the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois. This mine would destroy over 1,000 more acres in an area already riddled with both strip and underground mines. Beautiful woodlands, productive farmland, and a rural residential community would be dug up in Peabody’s pursuit of profit at any cost to those who live there. Further, nearly eight miles of streams and several acres of wetlands would be mined through and permanently destroyed. This area is especially important as it hosts both multigenerational families as well as refugees from two other stripped areas, now being pushed out again.

Residents waiting to speak out at the hearing.

Residents waiting to speak out at the hearing.

The hearing room was packed and over a dozen residents provided comments at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) public hearing on December 11. Only one person, a Peabody representative, spoke in favor of the mine. Residents passionately presented their many concerns including limited access to work, school, and emergency services due to road closures and increased flooding that would result from the proposed mining plan. One woman showed pictures of how close the flooding now comes to her home, kept away only by a nearby road, which Peabody hopes to close and mine through. A neighbor of the adjacent Peabody strip

Chris Shimp showing yellow and orange coal dust on his property.

Chris Shimp showing yellow and orange coal dust on his property.

mine expressed anger at the dangerous amounts of coal dust and damage to his home’s foundation and walls from mine blasting. He shared his frustration and disappointment in state regulators’ inaction and inability to hold the mine company accountable. Residents expressed their fears that a strip mine would destroy their now healthy and intact community. They are also gravely concerned about Peabody’s history of noncompliance at nearby mines and the state regulators’ weak enforcement of rules and regulations meant to protect public safety, health and the environment. Following official comments, residents pressed IDNR for answers about how their land and water would be protected.

Final comments on the proposed mining permit are due on December 23rd. The water pollution permit is on public notice by Illinois EPA now through January 17. For more information on how to get involved, contact Carrie Otto at cotto@prairierivers.org.

Read more in the Harrisburg Daily Register article (PDF) on December 12, 2013.