If Knight Hawk gets the green light to proceed with the project, the portal will be developed “sometime in 2013 or into 2014,” according to Steve Carter, the company’s president. “We’re developing plans and haven’t filed an application, but we hope to do that shortly.” The new portal is designed to extend the life of the mine that began producing coal in 2006.

Knight Hawk is known as a company that both understands and embraces its role as a regional producer of steam coal mainly for the scrubbed electric utility market. It has a modest growth strategy. “We’re trying to get and stick around 5 million tons a year,” Carter said. The company produced 4.2 million tons in 2011.

Knight Hawk also is awaiting state approval of an application to begin mining at its proposed Golden Eagle surface mine, also in Perry County. The company and Illinois Department of Natural Resources have negotiated a lease for Golden Eagle, which will be located near Pinckneyville, Ill.