New mine could provide 350 jobs

New mine could provide 350 jobs

Franklin County, long a main cog in the Illinois coal market, has been without a working mine for nearly a decade. But it appears that bleak picture is about to change. James Morris, vice president with Williamson Energy Development, spoke to the Franklin County Board Monday night and provided details about a proposed coal mine near Akin that could provide 350 jobs.

The mine is scheduled to begin construction later this year, Morris said. Williamson Energy Development is a subsidiary of the Cline Group, which is headquartered in West Virginia.

Morris approached the board about including the site, which will be called Sugar Camp Energy, in the county’s enterprise zone.

During his presentation Morris said Sugar Camp controls approximately 37,000 acres of coal in the area north of Akin, which is a few miles east of Benton.

“The Sugar Camp reserves will support two underground longwall mines,” Morris said. “We have a history of doing what we say we’ll do.”

Morris said if the land is added to the enterprise zone, the company will gain through sales tax abatements for construction materials, machinery and equipment. But he said Sugar Camp will support local institutions such as local school districts and county and local taxing districts.

Morris said the mine will employ 350 at full capacity and that the average annual income will be approximately $45,000, compared to an average $26,000 annual income for Franklin County workers.

The Regional Development Institute at Northern Illinois University recently completed a study that showed along with the 350 permanent jobs, the economic impact would also include approximately 300 spinoff jobs.

The overall project, Morris said, will cost more than $400 million. Construction is expected to begin this summer and the first coal is expected to be mined in 2008, he said.

Board Chairman Randall Crocker applauded Morris’ comments and said he sees the proposed development as a plus for the county.

“We’re excited about this and I think there is a very good chance that this is going to go,” Crocker said. “I think his (Morris) presentation was impressive. I’m very comfortable about this project.”

Ken Burzynski, executive director of Franklin County Regional Economic Development, called the announcement “very good news for Franklin County.”

“This is going to give a new tax base to the county and bring back people who used to work here,” Burzynski said. “It is going to give us new people in the county and add new students to our schools. It’s great news and it’s a win-win for the county and the region.”

Crocker said the board will not address the issue of adding the projected mine site to the enterprise zone until its March meeting.


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