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Willow Lake Mine

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This article is part of the Coal Issues portal on SourceWatch, a project of CoalSwarm and the Center for Media and Democracy. See here for help on adding material to CoalSwarm.

Willow Lake Mine is an underground operation in Saline County north of Equality in Southern Illinois, owned by Peabody Energy. In November 2012 Peabody said it would close the mine by first quarter 2013.

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Mine Data

  • Owner: Arclar Company
  • Parent company: Peabody Energy
  • Location: 420 Long Lane Rd, Equality, IL, 62934-2047
  • GPS coordinates: 37.765473, -88.389859
  • Production: 3.7 million tons (2008)
  • Type of coal: Medium sulfur
  • Mine type: Underground
  • Equipment:
  • Number of employees: 400
  • Recoverable Reserves: 37 million tons

Mine history

The mine first shipped coal in 2002. In 2008, the mine sold 3.7 million tons of coal to Midwest utility customers, primarily shipped by barge to downriver utility plants.[1] The mine sold 2.2 million tons of coal in 2011.[2]

The mine operates year round, seven days a week, with two production shifts per day. Coal is transported to the preparation plant via overland conveyor belt and radial stacker. The Willow Lake Preparation Plant is a 1,400 raw-ton-per-hour heavy media plant, and washes coal for the Willow Lake Mine and Peabody's Wildcat Hills Complex. Washed coal is primarily shipped by barge down the Ohio River to the mine's customers.[1]

Worker safety

Union representation

The hourly workforce at the Willow Lake Mine is represented under an International Brotherhood of Boilermakers labor agreement, which will expire April 15, 2011.[3]

Safety violations

In July 2010, a worker was killed at the mine after struck by a piece of heavy underground equipment. According to records, the U.S. Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) considers Willow Lake a problem mine: in June 2010, the agency was granted an expedited hearing before the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission. MSHA had fined Peabody subsidiary Big Ridge Inc. $230,000 for violations found at the mine since late 2008. A dozen of the citations were "significant and substantial," meaning MSHA believed they could cause serious injury or death. Problems at the mine include a failure to provide adequate protection from cave-ins and excessive accumulations of combustible materials, such as coal dust, considered highly dangerous as a fuel for fires underground mines and because it can magnify the power of methane gas explosions.[4]

In August 2010, an administrative law judge said Peabody Energy must pay $174,000 of $230,000 in proposed fines tied to safety issues at the mine. Calling the penalties "appropriate," Gary Melick's ruling was in response to the expedited hearing in June 2010 involving Peabody's challenges of the proposed fines at the mine dating to 2008.[5]

In November 2011, the MSHA put the mine on notice for "a repetitive pattern of serious violations."[6]

Worker killed, mine closes

In November 2012 a mine employee was pinned by a piece of mining equipment and killed. That month Peabody announced that it would be closing the mine by first quarter 2013. Peabody said its decision was driven by several ongoing issues, including the fatal accident.[7]

Articles and resources

The Illinois Coal Industry Statutory Mandated Report 2008 an industry report containing information on Illinois mines.

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References

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Willow Lake Mine" Peabody Energy Website, October 2009
  2. Jeffrey Tomich, "Peabody to shutter Illinois mine, lay off 400," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 28, 2012.
  3. "Peabody Annual Report 10K through December 31, 2008" Edgar Online, Filed February 27, 2009
  4. "Peabody Energy Worker Killed At Mine Cited For Violations" Wall Street Journal, July 9, 2010.
  5. "Peabody Ordered to Pay $174,000 over Illinois Mine" West Kentucky Star.com, August 30, 2010.
  6. "Illinois coal mine put on notice" Chicago Tribune, Nov. 30, 2011.
  7. Jeffrey Tomich, "Peabody to shutter Illinois mine, lay off 400," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 28, 2012.