The Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Reclamation is expected to rule in early 2016 on the company’s request to add 9,690.21 acres of underground acreage to its Oaktown No. 1 mine in Knox County. Sunrise acquired the Oaktown Nos. 1 and 2 deep mines along with the Prosperity underground mine near Petersburg in Pike County, Indiana, last year from Vectren Fuels Corp. for $296 million, with adjustments not to exceed $325 million. Prosperity was subsequently shut by Sunrise.

Pete Sartoris, assistant director of the technical services section of the state agency, said in June he believes the permitted area sought by Sunrise would enable the company to tunnel beneath Indiana’s portion of the Wabash River, which divides the two states.

Sunrise, Indiana’s second-largest coal producer behind Peabody Energy Corp., still would need regulatory approval in Illinois, however, before completing the reserve connection.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) plans to hold a public hearing in August on Sunrise’s application for the proposed Bulldog underground mine in Vermilion County. The IEPA has issued a draft permit for the mine that would produce about 3 million tons of high-sulfur coal annually for 20 or more years.

In addition to the Oaktown mines, Sunrise operates the Carlisle underground steam coal mine in Sullivan County, Indiana, and the Ace in the Hole steam coal surface mine in Clay County, Indiana. Sunrise is expected to produce close to 10 million tons of coal in 2015.

Meanwhile, Sunrise is expected this summer to respond to an Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) request for additional information in support of the company’s Bulldog application.

On March 20, the DNR asked the company to respond to more than 60 questions relating to a host of issues including sediment ponds and federal endangered species. The original application was submitted to the state agency in June 2012.

If the application for Bulldog is ultimately approved, the mine is expected to begin producing coal in 2016 or 2017.