Iron Properties told the Associated Press this week that work at the larger of its two sites in eastern Tennessee, the 127-acre Liberty property, could come online by 2017. The company projects a payroll of around 100 individuals.

According to company official Dave Fortner, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits were issued by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) on October 8 for both the Liberty mine and neighboring sister operation the Security mine.

However, he noted to the AP that federal permitting from the Office of Surface Mining is still being sought for Security, the smaller of the two sites; regulatory agencies have found that the miner’s plans for Liberty meet environmental requirements.

According to documents submitted on the progress of the project, the Liberty mine — to be situated between 600 and 1,000 ft underground — is expected to have a seven-year lifespan and produce about 400,000 tons of coal annually, or 2.8 million tons total.

Fortner told the AP that, despite the current down market globally, Iron Properties is hoping for future improvements as it readies the first of the two operations and is flexible with the planned opening timeframe.

“If the economy changes for coal, that can be accelerated a little bit…but the earliest we could be mining would be about two years,” he said.