Golden Eagle Mine

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Knight Hawk Coal of Percy, Illinois, is pursuing a 160-acre strip of land to expand coal mining near Pyramid State Park, Illinois' biggest state park.

During their spring session 2011, Illinois lawmakers signed off on a plan for the state to lease the strip at the edge of Pyramid State Park to Knight Hawk, who hope to use the land as a staging ground for a 240-acre strip mine just outside the 20,000-acre park, if a deal can be worked out with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The company also would carve for coal underneath the public area.

The measure was delivered in June 2011 to Gov. Pat Quinn.[1] In August 2011, Gov. Quinn approved the new Golden Eagle surface mine.[2]

History

Pyramid State Park was derived from a coal company that once existed there. The park's original 924 acres, much of it previously strip mined, were acquired in 1968 from Southern Illinois University, which had used the land for research. Most of modern-day Pyramid had been mined before, from the 1930s through the early 1990s.

Illinois does not allow mining or logging in its state parks, and allowing it in Pyramid State Park — much of it former mining land that has been reclaimed — would be a first, state Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Januari Smith said, who added that the agency had taken "a neutral position" on the legislation.[1]

Terms of proposed mine

Under the plan, Knight Hawk would lease at fair market value a small portion of the park — which draws about 400,000 visitors annually — for a decade to adhere to a federal law requiring that coal not be mined within 300 feet of park land. As part of the venture near Pinckneyville, a 5,500-resident town about 70 miles southeast of St. Louis, most of the mining actually would take place off park land, in 240 acres of private land now home to maturing wheat.

Using a giant mechanical extractor, the mining company would also bore up to 1,000 feet into the walls of the pit next to the park to get at additional coal. Knight Hawk estimates extracting 500,000 tons of coal a year from the site for roughly seven or eight years, adding to the 4.5 million tons the 15-year-old company now produces each year at five other mines in the region.

Part of the park also would be leased out for storage of the dirt that will be dug up and later "restored" to state DNR specifications, perhaps creating more wetlands to make use of the land that's been carved out. Knight Hawk will donate the 240 acres on which the strip mining would take place, land worth $1 million.

The measure's sponsor in the House, Democratic Rep. Dan Reitz of Steelville, some 10 miles from the park, said the coal company's CEO, Steve Carter, approached him to get the bill filed, seeking to strip mine part of the property and chisel out the black ore from beneath the surface elsewhere. Reitz has spent 17 years working the region's underground coal mines.[1]

Governor approves mine

In August 2011, Illinois Gov. Quinn approved H.B. 390, allowing Knight Hawk to lease the 160-acre strip of land in the park for its new Golden Eagle surface mine. The land is privately owned and the first time in Illinois that mining has been approved for a state park. Knight Hawk said it will begin the permitting process for Golden Eagle, which is projected as an approximately 500,000 tpy operation. Mining could commence by summer 2012.[3]

Mine Data

  • Owner: Pyramid State Park
  • Parent company:
  • Location: Pyramid State Park, IL
  • GPS coordinates:
  • Production: 500,000 tons (projected)
  • Type of coal: High-sulfur
  • Mine type: Surface and Underground
  • Equipment:
  • Number of employees:
  • Recoverable Reserves:

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