VERMILION COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — A decade-long fight against the construction of a coal mine recently ended in victory for those opposed to the mine’s construction.

Sunrise Coal had been planning to build the Bulldog Coal Mine, which would’ve been Illinois’ last new coal mine, near Homer and Sidell. Community members formed Stand Up To Coal, a 100% grassroots and volunteer organization, to oppose this. They said the mine would have caused significant environmental harm to the area and negatively impacted nearby communities, including contamination of groundwater, airborne coal dust pollution and the poisoning of nearby streams, such as the Salt Fork of the Vermilion River through its Olive Branch tributary, by mine discharge.

A build permit was issued by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in 2019; it required Sunrise Coal to break ground by April of this year in some form – even a parking lot would’ve sufficed. But that did not happen nor did Sunrise Coal ask for an extension. The land reclaimed for the mine has since been returned to its owners, signaling a permanent end to the proposal.

Illinois water and community activists are celebrating the news.

“This victory has taken years of sustained efforts working side-by-side with other organizations and individuals planning, communicating, attending numerous public meetings and hearings, and much more,” said Suzanne Smith of Stand Up To Coal. “The termination of this permit is everything we’ve been fighting for. Our land, our water, and our air are no longer under threat from a future coal mine.”

Prairie Rivers Network was also involved in the fight, joining SUTC at public hearings, community gatherings and preparing comments on the mine’s impact.

“This victory is a testament to what community voices can achieve to protect water, protect air, and in the fight against climate change,” said Andrew Rehn, Water Resources Engineer at Prairie Rivers Network. “The members of Stand Up to Coal should be proud of what they’ve accomplished in stopping the Bulldog Mine. With recent environmental protection setbacks at the national level, local and state activism is going to be more important than ever. Illinois’s last proposed new coal mine is never going to happen, and the state can continue to move towards a clean energy future.”