Foresight Asks to Re-enter Deer Run Longwall Mine


More than a year after its Deer Run longwall mine in southern Illinois was temporarily sealed to put out a stubborn underground fire or hotspot, Foresight Energy LP may have plans to reopen the mine later this year. In April, the St. Louis-based company formally asked the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration for authorization to re-enter the mine near Hillsboro in Montgomery County to check on its status, an MSHA spokeswoman said. As of early May, there was no indication the federal agency had given its okay.

Foresight representatives declined to publicly discuss their plans for Deer Run, also known as Hillsboro. Once regarded as one of the bright lights among Foresight's four underground mines in Illinois, Deer Run has weathered a disappointing two years.

After producing 5.5 million tons of steam coal in 2014, the mine's demise came about rather suddenly in the spring of 2015, a year in which Deer Run's output was expected to ramp up even more. On March 26, 2015, MSHA ordered the mine closed after elevated levels of carbon monoxide gas were detected.

Deer Run operated sporadically in the ensuing months as CO levels rose and fell. The mine finished 2015 with 1.9 million tons of production. The company continued to inject nitrogen underground in an effort to permanently bring CO levels back to normal.

Then came 2016 and Foresight sought and received permission from MSHA to temporarily seal the mine. Deer Run produced no coal last year.

Local officials in Montgomery County, citing a flurry of activity at the mine just outside of town, said they believe Foresight has been eyeing a possible resumption of mining at Deer Run for most of this year. They would welcome such a move, given many of the 120 or so miners at Deer Run live in the county.