Mines and Minerals hopes to issue a permit by the end of 2012 but there are no guarantees, according to Scott Fowler, supervisor in DNR’s Land Reclamation Division. “We’re backlogged,” he said in late June about processing pending mine applications. “We’re hoping” to approve the permit by year’s end, “but I have my doubts.”

Sunrise/Hallador, though, are not in a big hurry. Company officials are counting on getting the permit sometime in 2013, said Hallador President Brent Bilsland. Once the permit is in hand, the company will evaluate the market for Allerton’s high-sulfur steam coal and decide whether to proceed to the construction stage.

Allerton could be in production in 2014. At peak production, it would extract 3 million to 3.5 million tons annually, drawing from a “controlled” reserve base of at least 32.3 million tons of recoverable coal. Total estimated reserves are around 54 million tons.

Like Sunrise/Hallador’s other deep mine in neighboring Indiana, Carlisle in Sullivan County, Allerton would be a continuous miner operation. Development of Carlisle began in March 2006, and reached coal in December 2006. From February-July 2007, the mine produced 400,000 tons, and its output since has steadily increased to about 3.3 million tons in 2011.

Bilsland expects Carlisle to produce slightly less than 3 million tons this year, as two of the mine’s customers asked Sunrise to store some coal at the mine because their burns are down due to reduced electricity demand. Carlisle supplies coal to Indianapolis Power & Light, Hoosier Energy and Duke Energy Indiana.

Illinois Coal Association President Phil Gonet believes Allerton would fit right in with the state’s growing industry. Cline Group subsidiaries are operating or developing four underground mine complexes in the Midwestern state, three featuring longwall mining systems. Privately-owned White Oak Resources, with financial support from Alliance Resource Partners, is building the White Oak No. 1 mine near McLeansboro in Hamilton County. Meanwhile, the Lively Grove mine near Marissa in Washington County has started to supply coal to the new 1,600-megawatt Prairie State Energy Campus coal-fired power plant. Both White Oak No. 1 and Lively Grove also are continuous miner operations.

Hallador Energy, whose principal owner is Yorktown Partners, acquired 80% of Sunrise Coal in 2006 to provide the financing needed to develop Carlisle. In September 2009, Hallador purchased the remaining 20% of Sunrise.