Locals two votes shy of landing multi-million dollar mining operation

Locals two votes shy of landing multi-million dollar mining operation
By: Arnold Wyrick
HAMILTON COUNTY, Ill. - When Exxon Corporation pulled up stakes and vacated their mining operations in Hamilton County, they left the county 7,700 acres of coal leases.  Now the county is trying to sell those mineral rights to Midwestern Energy Development Incorporation.

But according to Donald Mitchell, M.D. chairman of the Hamilton County Board, the deal isn't going well. "Leasing of real estate requires a 'super-majority' vote.  Which in our case would be 4 out of the 5 members voting in favor of the deal.  And it's been defeated by a 3-to-2 vote four times in the past," says Mitchell.

The two members who have voted no all four times on turning over the counties coal leases to the mining company are Troy Rubenacker and Randy Rubenacker. " What ever their reasons maybe it's holding up the county at this time," Mitchell said.

And according to a MEDCO spokesperson Jim Lindsay, the county is missing out on employing more than 1,000 construction workers for at least a 2 year period, and more than $300 million annually in revenue.  Plus an estimated 350 more permanent jobs at the mine if it ever gets up and running. "I think we need more jobs around here.  There really isn't nothing but General Tire and Walden's.  We need something more then what we've got," says Matthew Lemon of McLeansboro.

The mining company would also pay each land owner for the usage of their property. "Ten thousand dollars an acre would do a lot for retired people around here, the small farmers and it just would really help out everybody," says Mitchell.

And some folks see the mine as the future for their community. "It could mean the difference between whether or not our young people get to stay in the county or not," says John Mead of McLeansboro.

The mining company is going to try one more time on Thursday night to sit down with the Hamilton County Board to try and hammer out the details on the remaining coal leases in the area. "So we're hopeful we can explore other avenues to reach an agreement," Mitchell said.