Illinois Coal Mines Post Fifth Consecutive Year Without a Fatality

Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced that Illinois’ coal mine industry achieved a fifth consecutive year without a fatality, a milestone never before achieved in Illinois. This achievement is a testament to increased safety measures over the last several years and the diligence of mine workers in Illinois to follow safety procedures. “Today is a great day for the Illinois coal industry and the men and women who take on tremendous risk each day when they go to work,” Blagojevich said . “To go five consecutive years without losing a life in an industry worldwide that has seen its share of recent tragedies is an accomplishment that should not be over looked.”

Blagojevich signed mine safety legislation in July 2006 that provides Illinois miners and rescuers with additional safety measures in the event of an emergency. He originally proposed the legislation in January 2006 following the Sago Mine incident in West Virginia, which killed 12 miners.

Illinois coal miner safety is the top priority of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ (IDNR) Office of Mines and Minerals. State law requires a mine be inspected once a month, but state mine inspectors often visit mining operations with more frequency to ensure compliance. Routine inspections of coal mines include checking for compliance with state mining laws, proper ventilation, hazardous conditions, and ensuring roof and rib control procedures are being followed and making sure miners are working safely and properly. “I applaud the coal miners of Illinois and the governor for a continued commitment to Illinois coal and increased safety measures to protect our miners,” said IDNR Acting Director Sam Flood.

“Safety is the highest priority for all involved in coal mining in our state,” said Illinois Office of Mines and Minerals Director Joe Angleton. “Every miner, company official and regulator should take pride in the fact that Illinois has been able to produce approximately 160 million tons of coal with an average workforce of 3,500 without a single fatality. Such an accomplishment is a result of the diligence of our miners, Illinois' aggressive inspection and safety procedures, and Governor Blagojevich's commitment to the coal industry.”

“With hard work and commitment, Illinois has become a leader in mine safety,” said Illinois Coal Association President Phil Gonet. “I applaud the efforts of Illinois coal companies and their coal miners who work hard every day to supply a very important product to the state and the nation and I congratulate them on this achievement.”

Illinois now has the most aggressive package of incentives in the nation to spur clean coal fueled power plant development and provide other support for the Illinois coal industry. In July 2003, Blagojevich signed a law that added $300 million in revenue bonds to the Coal Revival Program, which provides major tax and financing incentives to large clean coal fueled projects.

Since 2003, the state has invested $101.7 million in coal development projects, including the Peabody Energy Electric Prairie State project in Washington County; the Taylorville Energy Center, a coal gasification project in Christian County; and scrubbers at Ameren's Duck Creek Power Station in Peoria County. Also included is more than $68 million in grants to Illinois coal operators who upgrade their facilities to make their product more competitive, as well as more than $21 million for advanced research and development through the Illinois Clean Coal Institute. Grants for mine safety and miner training projects totaled $3.5 million during this 5-year period. Blagojevich also has led an effort with the Illinois Congressional delegation to tout Illinois’ advantages as a site for the US Department of Energy’s proposed FutureGen Project, which will demonstrate making electric power and hydrogen fuel from coal with near zero harmful emissions. In December 2007, Illinois was chosen as the winning site for the $1.8 billion FutureGen clean-coal project to be located in Mattoon. The state will continue to work with both the FutureGen Alliance and Congress to try to move this project forward as originally planned.

In 1980, Illinois employed over 18,000 coal miners and produced 62.5 million tons of coal. Today, despite a 77 percent reduction in workforce and a 66 percent reduction in operating mines, Illinois coal companies still produce 33 million tons of coal annually. Illinois has the largest reported bituminous coal resources of any state in the United States. In terms of energy value, Illinois coal has more British thermal units than the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait combined.

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