Coal Mining in Illinois

Mine Reclamation Project

Mine Reclamation Home Mine #3 Reclamation Mine #4 Reclamation Mine #5 Reclamation "K" Mine Reclamation


In January 1999, the state of Illinois' Department of Natural Resources, through their Office of Mines and Minerals, Division of Abandoned Mined Lands, received bids for the reclamation of the Big Four Wilmington No. 5 Mine Group. This project, as with most abandoned coal mines in the United States, was funded by the United States Department of the Interior's Office of Surface Mining through a tax on currently mined coal. The bids for the project ranged from $232,000 to $867,000. The project contract was awarded to Kodat Farms and Excavation of Goose Lake Township, Grundy County, Illinois.

There are four different sites which were included in this reclamation, three of which are known as the Big Four Wilmington No. 3, 4, and 5. No. 3 is 1/4 mile north of Valerio E.J. & E. right of way. No. 5 is immediately west of Carbon Hill. The last site is the Chicago, Wilmington and Vermilion "K" Mine, adjacent to Route 53 on the west side of the village of Godley.

All of the sites are privately owned and the reclamation occurred only with the owner's approval. The work was to be started upon that approval and basically be completed by September 1, 1999. Work did commence March 10, 1999.

The first phase consisted of the removal of the trees that had grown over each site through the years. These trees were removed and piled on-site to be used as wildlife cover, firewood, or burned at the landowner's discretion. This tree removal took about four days at each site, with the exception of K mine, which had very few trees to remove. Also in this phase any junk or rubbish on the site was disposed of off-site or piled to be removed later.

In the second phase, the shafts themselves were located, dug into as far as possible, and filled with crushed limestone and capped with soil. During this phase any sinkholes on site were dug up, investigated and refilled and compacted. The "K" mine shaft is actually in the road ditch east of the driveway on Route 53. This shaft was about 8' x 16', and was a divided shaft - a combination air shaft and mine shaft. Already filled with mud, water, and debris, it was excavated to 14' and back filled with stone and clay and topped with soil. #3 mine had a slope shaft which was found filled with dirt. It also had a vertical shaft, but that shaft was unable to be located during reclamation.

#4 mine shaft, also filled with dirt and debris, was excavated 20' deep and filled with stone and capped with soil. #5 mine's air shaft is about 1/4 mile north of the main shaft. It is in a farm field about 300' north of the Claypool Drainage Ditch. This air shaft was 4' square, 90' deep, and enclosed with 4x4 timbers. It was mostly filled in with sediment and only required 20 tons of stone and a soil cap to close it. The main shaft of #5 was excavated to about 28' deep and it was discovered that the junk and debris had bridged over and the shaft was still open for another 90' of depth. The water level was about 35' below the grade. It took 300 tons of stone to fill the shaft before it was capped with soil. This shaft, like the others, was lined with 6x6 or 8x8 timbers, and seemed as solid as the day they were put in place.

The next phase consisted of the grading, leveling, and shaping of each site's refuse to the specifications outlined in the plan. All of these refuse sites are similar in shape with a slightly pitched spot on top and the sides sloped at a 5 or 6 to 1 grade, so that they could be seeded and kept from eroding. The mine "refuse" was also compacted where possible to minimize settling. The state calls the clay, dirt, rocks, and shale found around these old mines "refuse." Local people familiar with the mines and the terrain, refer to this "refuse" as slag piles, spoil piles, gob piles, slag heaps, or, most usually, mine dumps. In order to meet the specifications of the plans for reclamation, these dumps would need to come down substantially. In fact, the amounts of refuse moved at each site, in cubic yards was: "K" mine - 9145 cu. yds; #3 - 17625 cu. yds; #4 - 9222 cu. yds; #5 - 80115 cu. yds. The highest point before grading at the "K" mine was 626' above sea level. After this phase the "K" mine was 600' above sea level, for a reduction of 26'. The #3 mine began at 602' above sea level and was taken down to 568', for a reduction of 34'. The #4 mine began at 584' above sea level and was taken to 552', for a reduction of 32'. The #5 mine was 633' above sea level and was taken to 592', for a reduction of 41'.

After the refuse was at its grade, ground limestone at the rate of 50 tons per acre was spread on top. The 3" of soil from the borrow areas was placed on top of that and the surface was disked 6" deep to incorporate the top 3" of refuse with the 3" of soil and limestone. After this was completed another 9" of soil was placed on top.

Between August 1st and September 1st, 1999, the sites were heavily fertilized with nitrogen, phosphorus, potash, and another 2 tons of ground limestone. This was followed by disking for incorporation and seedbed preparation. The sites were then seeded with a 120# per acre mix of grasses and legumes. The seeding was dragged in a 2 tons per acre of straw were spread and crimped to act as a mulch. This completed the mine reclamation.