Illinois coal mine owner seeks expansion as fire lingers

HILLSBORO, Ill. (AP) — The owner of a southern Illinois coal mine where an underground fire has smoldered for nearly a year is asking state regulators to approve an expansion that some local residents fear could jeopardize public health and cause environmental damage. Foresight Energy ceased production at its Deer Run Mine in early January near Hillsboro after what it calls a “combustion event” that’s elevated carbon monoxide levels below ground. The St. Louis-based company responded by cutting 100 jobs. The mine owner wants the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to approve a 7,731-acre expansion into areas unaffected by the fire. A public hearing is scheduled for Thursday. Deer Run operates as a longwall mine under a process that allows for greater coal extraction but also weakens surface land used by farmers.