In early October, the company was awaiting a Section 404 Clean Water Act permit from the federal Army Corps of Engineers, the final regulatory approval needed for the mine. Earlier this year, the Indiana Division of Reclamation, part of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, issued a final state permit covering more than 3,000 acres for High Point, which will be United’s largest mine.

According to a company official, High Point is expected to produce just under 1 million tons of high-sulfur coal annually once it is in full production, probably sometime in 2016. The official was holding out hope that preliminary production could begin before the end of 2015.

The official said High Point has enough reserves to last several years, although he did not elaborate.

United currently operates the Cardinal surface mine in Pike County, Indiana, and the West 61 surface mine near Boonville in Warrick County. Cardinal produced 268,506 tons of coal in the first half of 2014, federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) records show. The mine has 33 employees. West 61 produced 445,653 tons in the first six months of 2015 with nearly 70 employees.

United produces coal from the Indiana Nos. 5, 6 and 7 seams that average approximately 11,200 Btu/lb and 5-6 lb SO2/MMBtu.