Pat Quinn, Governor
Coal has been mined since the early 1800's, has been produced in 62 counties, and has affected approximately 250,000 acres of the state's 35 million acres. There are currently 5 active surface mines and 17 active underground mines. Approximately 6 carbon recovery operations (removing coal from old coal waste piles and ponds) are periodically active at any point in time. 70 additional sites are currently being reclaimed. There is currently coal production in 16 of the 102 counties in the state. Most of the coal production is from the southern portion of the state. Illinois is part of a geologic structure known as the Illinois Basin.
The Illinois Basin covers Illinois, western Kentucky and western Indiana. In 1995, coal production was approximately 40 million tons. Most of the coal produced is for electric power generation. Approximately 80% of the production is from underground mines. Most of this coal is between 200 and 900 feet below the surface and is found in layers or seams 4 to 8 feet thick. Two coal seams the #5 and the #6 account for most of the production.
The Land Reclamation Division has been regulating the reclamation of surface mined areas since 1962. Underground mining methods have evolved as technology has advanced and laws have been enacted to regulate the industry. Room and pillar, high extraction retreat, and longwall are several modern methods used to mine coal. Room and pillar mining creates voids by mining rooms then turning at right angles (cross Cuts) resulting in a grid pattern. Approximately 50% of the coal remains unmined in blocks called "pillars" to support the roof. High extraction retreat removes some of the pillars as an area is exited allowing the roof to cave. Longwall mining uses a large shearer which works under a series of steel shields removing all of the coal in a large panel or block 900 feet by 2 miles. The latter two methods cause predicable and controlled surface subsidence or sinking of the land. The Land Reclamation Division has regulated the restoration of the land surface from subsidence from active mines since 1983.
Reclaimed land from current mining is used for a variety of uses, including cropland, pasture, wildlife, forestry, and recreation. Current mining must meet stringent water quality, erosion, vegetation, and productivity requirements. The Land Reclamation Division holds approximately 700 million dollars in bonds which the companies must provide to guaranty the reclamation of active surface and underground mining. The division has offices in Benton (618) 439-9111, and Springfield (217) 782-4970.
Illinois Department of Natural Resources,
Office of Mines and Minerals,
524 South Second Street Springfield, Illinois 62701-1787
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