Deer Run Mine

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This article is part of the Global Coal Mine Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor and the Center for Media and Democracy.

Deer Run Mine is a U.S. underground coal mine near Hillsboro in Montgomery County, Illinois.

After being idle since March 2015, the Deer Run mine resumed production in January 2019.[1]


The below satellite image shows the location of the Deer Run mine near Hillsboro, Illinois.

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Deer Run Mine was permitted in 2009 to Hillsboro Energy, LLC, an affiliate of the Cline Group. According to the Cline Group, the mine has the potential to produce roughly 8 to 10 million tons per year when the longwall mining is in full production. The estimated life of the mine is expected to exceed 20 years. The coal reserves at the mine are leased to the mining company Hillsboro Energy.[2]

Digging began, despite legal challenges

In April 2011, the Cline Group began digging at the site. The early production is “development coal” that must be removed to allow construction of the underground mine. The mine remains the subject of a 2-year-old appeal of its operating permit. The appeal was filed by a group of landowners called Citizens Against Longwall Mining in early 2009, who contend the longwall mining method to be used at Deer Run will hurt farmland values, filing the appeal after the Illinois Department of Natural Resources approved an operating permit for Deer Run mine. The group argues that longwall mining will damage farmland by causing long-term mine subsidence. Brian Perbix of the Prairie Rivers Network/Sierra Club said opponents are hoping for a decision this summer 2011. He added that opponents believe there is still time to halt the operation. Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Januri Smith said the administrative review remains in the discovery process and that a timeline has not been set for a ruling.[3]

Environmental permits

As of November 2011, publicly available data shows the mine has violated its water pollution permit 24 times.[4]

Coal reserve purchases

In February 2012, Natural Resource Partners made its fifth—out of the planned seven—purchase of coal reserves at the Deer Run mine. The company bought the reserves from Colt LLC, an affiliate of the Cline Group. Natural Resource indicated that the construction of the new longwall mine is underway, and the company expects to start digging for coal in early 2012. Going forward, Natural Resource expects net income from the mine to exceed $40 million per year from the mine.[5]

To date, Natural Resource has paid $215 million of the $255 million slated for the acquisition of approximately 200 million tons of reserves. Natural Resource Partners L.P. is principally engaged in owning and managing mineral reserve properties. The company owns coal reserves and coal handling and transportation infrastructure in Appalachia, the Illinois Basin and the Powder River Basin.[5]

Mine Production

Patton Mining LLC began operations in August 2012 on one longwall system with a productive capacity of 9 million tons per year. Transportation was by rail (Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific), and barge on the Ohio River and Mississippi River (via truck or railroad).[1] In 2014, its last full year of production, the mine produced 5.6 million short tons, the sixth highest in the Illinois Basin.[6]

Coal slurry impoundment

According to Citizens Against Longwall Mining (CALM), when Hillsboro Energy, LLC got the go-ahead to build the coal mine, the permit application approved by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Office of Mines and Minerals made no mention of a coal slurry impoundment to be located within the city of Hillsboro, despite questions by local residents. yet in November 2011 it was revealed that the mine will store hundreds of millions of gallons of coal slurry – the liquid waste product leftover after coal is processed – into an 80 ft. tall impoundment that will cover over one square mile. It is rated as a High Hazard dam, meaning that if the coal slurry impoundment were to fail, it would result in massive loss of life and property in Hillsboro and Schram City, and could send pollution downstream into Old Lake Hillsboro. The coal slurry impoundment will last the mine fewer than five years, meaning a new impoundment may then be built.

CALM also says that Deer Run used the Insignificant Permit Revision and Incidental Boundary Revision process to receive approval from IDNR to build the base of the High Hazard coal slurry impoundment and begin dumping coal slurry there before any opportunity for public comment, and before the mine received a dam permit from IDNR’s Office of Water Resources.

At an August 13, 2011 Office of Mines and Minerals public informal conference on the proposed coal slurry impoundment, local residents raised their concern that the Public Notice for the dam permit was not publicized, and asked IDNR to stop slurry disposal and dam construction activities by the mine until the issue is resolved. Instead, IDNR’s Office of Water Resources rescinded its original Cease and Desist Order and opted to grant Deer Run Mine an Emergency Dam Permit – allowing the mine to proceed with building the High Hazard Dam before the agency considers comments from the public.[4]

Mine idled in 2015, reopened in 2019

In July 2014, operations were suspended due to high carbon monoxide readings, indicating an underground fire.[7] This fire was extinguished, but on March 26, 2015, the MSHA ordered the mine shut after high carbon monoxide levels were found again. The mine was essentially idled as further efforts were made to smother the fires. They were unsuccessful and hotspots in the same area were detected in 2017. Foresight Energy submitted plans to permanently seal the initial longwall, abandoning up to $67 million worth of equipment inside, in December of 2017.[8]

After being idle since March 2015, the Deer Run mine resumed production in January 2019 with one continuous miner unit. This miner unit is developing longwall gate entries to allow for the potential resumption of longwall mining.[1]

Citizen Groups

Project Details

  • Sponsor: Hillsboro Energy
  • Parent Company: Foresight Energy / Murray Energy (formerly Cline Group / Natural Resource Partners)
  • Location: Montgomery County, Illinois, United States
  • GPS Coordinates: 39.1443698, -89.4670799 (exact)
  • Status: Operating
  • Production Capacity: 9 million tons per year
  • Total Resource:
  • Mineable Reserves: 322.1 million tons (total for the complex)
  • Coal type:
  • Mine Size:
  • Mine Type: Underground
  • Start Year: 2012, 2019
  • Source of Financing:

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