Contributed by Sue Forsyth of Stand Up to Coal
Deep in the heart of East Central Illinois’ prime and productive farmland lies a predator waiting to come to life. This predator takes many forms and could be considered a shape shifter in certain circles. It even has a catchy name and logo- Bulldog Mine (Strong, Fearless, Loyal) which aims to take attention away from the destructive and dangerous intentions this predator has to harm the air and land by room and pillar mining coal and shipping it outside of Illinois to a destination unknown.
Shape shifting is a specialty of The Bulldog Mine. Attractive and well-spoken agents cast a spell upon property owners to lease mineral rights, sometimes against the property owner’s better judgment. Most of the time the leases are so full of legalese that they are difficult to unravel and decipher, but the common thread is that the leases benefit only the predator in the long run. When the coal is mined and nothing is left but the threat of subsidence, the mine can turn a blind eye and morph into the producers of the next energy rush.
None of that is scary compared to the proposed seven hundred foot slurry retention pond that would be home to the remnants of the coal washing process. This proposed Mountain of Doom would be located in the middle of productive farmland and visible for miles in any direction. The components of the mountain slurry would contain mercury, arsenic, selenium, and other disgusting chemicals that are a product of making the coal marketable. Will these dangerous residual chemicals leech in to the ground and contaminate drinking water? Something to ponder on a dark chilly night as it is a scary scenario not outside the realm of possibility, even with safeguards in place.
Scarier still is the coal dust that will be created and transported wherever the howling wind takes it. From the mining surface facility where excess coal will be stockpiled in enormous mounds, to the transport of the coal itself in train cars pilfering dust along the way to its destination, or transported by diesel trucks that will allow the dust to escape into the air we and our families breathe. This doesn’t begin to touch upon the mining techniques themselves that are the leading cause of the fatal Black Lung disease that many miners die from.
Perhaps the most frightening aspect above and beyond the health implications is the wasteful and myopic use of water this predator will use to further the mining process. If only 1 percent of all of the world’s fresh water is accessible for direct human use, it should be a crime that predators like The Bulldog Mine should be able to utilize it for their own selfish gain. By using up to half a million gallons of treated (yes treated) water per day to wash coal, this mine seems to be saying they do not care about the finiteness of resources like fresh water. This should scare anybody that profits are put above populations that rely on that water to exist and flourish. They are essentially saying that their enterprise is more important and should be placed above all else.
In this time of renewable energy and efficiency there is a declining need for this kind of archaic energy source. Many organizations are shying away from using coal and are recognizing the need for cleaner, safer, and more productive energy sources. In fact, there is a movement for organizations to financially divest from fossil fuels altogether. This is the future of energy and those operating in the past will find themselves as a relic, just like the fossils they are harvesting for fuel. They will be nothing more than ghosts haunting the abandoned mines they used to operate.