In March, the company plans to release a prefeasibility study for the maiden mine. While the company would not discuss the study’s results beforehand, Hartshorne President and CEO David Gay nevertheless was optimistic. “It’s a very, very good project,” he said. “We’ve acquired some critical leases recently in both Hopkins and McLean counties and everything we see is very positive.”

If the study gives the company the “green light” as expected, Hartshorne plans to start in earnest to secure project financing and potential customers for a mine that most likely will not be in preliminary production until early 2018. The initial mine could produce 3.5 million to 4 million tons of coal annually, according to Gay.