Blockade: Fighting strip mine expansion Rocky Branch, Illinois

By Rainforest Action Network

This post is by activist Jeff Lucas. 

Residents of Illinois’ Rocky Branch community halt Peabody strip mine expansion for three hours with a road blockade. 

321 miles south of Chicago sits Rocky Branch, a community tucked into the Shawnee Hills. Roughly 1 mile north of Rocky Branch is the Cottage Grove strip mine. Peabody has been applying for permits to expand this mine for over a year. Right from the start residents who were fed up with the blasting, coal dust, trucks, and polluted well water organized and started challenging the mine expansion with petitions, packing EPA and Department of Natural Resources hearings, appealing to state government, and collecting over 5,300 signatures from Illinois residents calling on Attorney General Lisa Madigan to investigate the permits for the mine expansion.

If Peabody is granted the permit, the mine will turn Rocky Branch Road into a haul road for coal trucks, devastate 1,019 acres of forest and farm land on the edge of Shawnee National Forest, and come as close as 300 feet to the homes of residents who are refusing to sell their property to Peabody.

DSC_1946-SDSC_1965-SEarly in March Peabody started clear cutting the forest surrounding the community in preparation to expand the coal mine without proper permits. At 11 a.m. on Thursday March 13th, logging equipment exceeding the roads 10 ton weight limit being hauled on flat bed trucks was halted by a hand full of Rocky Branch residents and Southern Illinoisians. Locals using only their bodies and a line of caution tape stopped the logging operation for 3 hours while peabody haulers unloaded their equipment on the side of the road and state police attempted to verify the hauling and logging permits. No arrests were made.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources approved Peabody’s mining permit last week. Two water permits that are pending with the Illinois EPA are now the only thing keeping the strip mine from breaking ground. Residents of Rocky Branch and Southern Illinois are calling on Attorney General Lisa Madigan to investigate the water permits. If the investigation proves that the mine will pollute local water ways, the expansion will not go through. Going up against the largest coal company in the country, we have a long hard fight ahead of us. To follow and support or work please join The Shawnee Hills and Hollers Facebook group. Big things are in the works and we need your support.

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