Bulldog Mine

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Bulldog Mine is a proposed U.S. coal mine for Vermilion County, Illinois, by Indiana-based Sunrise Coal.

In 2022, the company did not fulfill the requirements of the build permit or seek an extension. The project is presumed shelved.[1]


The map below shows the approximate location for the proposed mine near Allerton, Illinois.

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Vermilion County sits near the center of the coal-dense Illinois Basin. The coal is high sulfur, but modern pollution scrubbers have made the coal viable under current EPA regulations regarding sulfur dioxide.[2]

In June 2012, Sunrise Coal applied to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to extract coal from what they’re calling the Bulldog Mine.[2]

According to John Hanou, an energy consultant who published a proprietary report on Illinois Basin coal, it costs $20-30 less a ton to mine coal in the Illinois Basin than in Appalachia, "and there’s still a robust domestic market for coal and a burgeoning export market to China and India." Sunrise Coal said they cannot say where they will be selling the coal since they do not yet have contracts, but that they are best situated geographically to sell in the Midwest. The Vermilion County area is served by the Norfolk Southern Railroad, which directly supplies coal to coal-burning power plants in the Southeast.[2]

In April 2019, after nearly 10 years in review, the mining permit for Sunrise Coal’s Bulldog Mine has been issued. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources approved the permit after Sunrise Coal made multiple revisions to it. These revisions were made in response to public comment on the first draft at a hearing that took place over four years ago, resulting in a letter that required over 60 changes be made. Sunrise Coal (which recently hired Scott Pruitt as their lobbyist) was given a year to respond to those modifications and then two extensions for a total of two and a half years to finish revisions.[3]

The last step before a permit is officially issued is an administrative review of the mining permit. Stand Up To Coal filed as a petitioner in the review, and the mine’s lawyers submitted a petition to dismiss the group from participating. A hearing was scheduled for May 21, 2020 to decide whether or not Stand Up to Coal could participate, and it is not clear what the outcome was.[4]


Water issues

Sunrise estimates it will need between 340,000 and 540,000 gallons of water a day for the first few years of operation, and opponents say that number could climb to 750,000 gallons a day once mining is underway. The totals dwarf the amount used by entire villages in the region. When asked where the mine’s water will come from, the company said initially, “a collection pond.” When a reporter pointed out that rainwater was unlikely to supply the hundreds of thousands of gallons needed, Sunrise Coal said that the company is looking to the village of Homer, Illinois, which borders the mine, for additional water. Opponents say such large water withdrawals could create problems for local needs.[2]

Allegations of secrecy

Mine opponents have objected to what they call Sunrise’s secrecy regarding the mine and how they have tried to suppress public discussion. According to an email obtained by Prairie Rivers Network and supplied to Midwest Energy News, a Sunrise representative emailed Homer Mayor David Lucas in April 2012 saying: "If you receive any inquiry from the press, please direct them to me. It’s important that we not discuss any aspect of the project in public before our permit is secure. I’m sure you understand the challenges it can bring up. I’ll call you later and we can discuss a plan for dealing with the press."[2]


Local farmers have expressed concerns that the mined land will subside, causing disruptions to drainage tile—the elaborate system of subsurface pipe that allows the flat, wet ground to be farmed.[2]

Citizen groups working on the Vermillion Mine

  • Stand Up to Coal - According to its website, "Stand Up To Coal is dedicated to informing residents, farmers and landowners in Champaign and Vermilion Counties, IL about the negative effects that Sunrise Coal, LLC's planned coal mine could have on our lands, waters and health."[5]

Sunrise Coal

Sunrise Coal has operated in Vermilion County before, under the name of Catlin Coal, which developed the Riola mine south of Catlin. Sunrise Coal, LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hallador Energy Company of Colorado. Founded in 2002 by Ron and Steve Laswell, the company has focused on underground coal mining. In 2006, Hallador Energy purchased part of Sunrise Coal and began the development of the Carlisle Mine, which removes more than three million tons annually. According to the IDNR, the proposed mining area borders both most recently closed Vermilion County mines. The Riola portal is to the north and the Vermilion Grove portal lies along its eastern boundary.[6]

Project Details

  • Sponsor: Sunrise Coal LLC
  • Parent Company: Hallador Energy[7]
  • Location: Vermilion County, Illinois, United States
  • GPS Coordinates: 39.9150217, -87.9468917 (approximate)
  • Status: Shelved[1]
  • Production Capacity: 3 mtpa[8]
  • Total Resource:
  • Mineable Reserves: 55 million tons[9]
  • Coal type: Bituminous
  • Mine Size: Over 19,500 acres[7]
  • Mine Type: Underground
  • Start Year:
  • Source of Financing:

Articles and resources

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  1. 1.0 1.1 Bradley Zimmerman,Conservationists celebrate expiration of mine contract, WCIA, Jul 6, 2022
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Dan Ferber, "Neighbors cite water concerns in opposition to Illinois coal mine," Midwest Energy News, August 20, 2012.
  3. "One Last Step for Bulldog Mine Permit," Prairie Rivers Network, April 23, 2019.
  4. "Home," "Stand Up to Coal website," accessed July 2020.
  5. Stand Up to Coal, accessed October 2011
  6. April Evans, "Coal mine proposed for east-central Illinois" Chicago tribune, August 12, 2010.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Bulldog Mine, Illinois," "Sunrise Coal website," accessed July 2020.
  8. "ILLINOIS EXPECTS HIGHER COAL PRODUCTION IN 2015," "Coal Age," January 11, 2016.
  9. Sunrise Coal Assets Sunrise Coal LLC, accessed October 2019.