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New McLean County Coal Mine Moves Forward with Approvals Despite Lawsuit

A new coal mine in McLean County is another step closer to reality after approval was given for two parts of the project on Sept. 25.

A member of the McLean County Board of Adjustment, Nancy Wetzel, said the board approved a conditional use permit for coal washing operations and the refuse pile for the Poplar Grove Mine.

The Australian company Paringa Resources and its Evansville, Indiana affiliate Hartshorne Mining Group have begun construction of the mine. The project is on 270 acres in the rural community of Semiway between Calhoun and Sacramento.

Brothers Gordon and Kenneth Bryant, who have deep family roots in the area and own land near the project site, have filed an appeal in McLean Circuit Court challenging the county’s approval for the mine.

Gordon Bryant said the potential impact of toxic chemicals leaching into the surrounding area is just one reason the project should receive more careful study. 

“Our concern is that a foreign-owned mining company with sophisticated engineering and legal advisers is trying to run through the project approval process in a community that has limited project review capabilities and which has to rely entirely on the mining company’s perspective.”

The Bryants also said the industrial nature of the project and the anticipated coal truck traffic are inconsistent with the rural community.

The McLean County Fiscal Court approved the project and the McLean County Joint Planning Commission approved a zone change from agricultural to industrial.  

The coal company has declined to comment because of the litigation and directed inquiries to the company website on the project. The Paringa Resources website documents construction underway at the Poplar Grove Mine site on Aug. 7, 2017. 

The website says Paringa Resources has contracts with Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities to deliver 4.75 million tons of coal from the Poplar Grove Mine over a five-year-period beginning in 2018.

Once the Poplar Grove Mine is constructed, Paringa plans to begin construction of the Cypress Mine, in what the company identifies as the Buck Creek Mine Complex, by early 2019, according to the website.

The Poplar Grove and Cypress mines have access to the Green River and the Ohio River that provides a "significant transportation advantage over other Illinois Basin coal producers," according to the website. "The LG&E and KU coal sales agreement calls for fixed sales prices based on a FOB (freight on board) basis delivered at the Buck Creek barge load-out facility on the Green River." 

The coal company's proposal for the dock on the Green River is scheduled for consideration at the October  meeting of the McLean County Joint Planning Commission.

Paringa's plan, according to the website, is to become “…the next major Illinois Basin coal producer.”

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