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The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Take a lesson from Rocky Branch

  • One lesson to be taken from the Rocky Branch situation is that there is no such thing as a dead coal mine.
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  • One lesson to be taken from the Rocky Branch situation is that there is no such thing as a dead coal mine.
    The coal may be stripped and the land reclaimed, but coal may still lay nearby and a coal company may one day decide it is worth the cost of obtaining.
    Those of us wanting to buy a piece of land or a home should bear that in mind and should do all we can to buy the mineral rights. There are a lot more people than those living in Rocky Branch who may one day find ourselves having to make a decision. Is the compensation money offered by the company for our land and home enough to make us want to pick up and start over somewhere else? Is the land and property valuable enough to us to put up with the blasting, road closures and living at the edge of a chasm? Once the coal company has made up its mind to move in to a community it is a good bet someone living there will decide the offer is generous enough to accept and to pick up and move. Once the company has a toe-hold there is really not much the others can do about it. Either take the money and start over or put up with the chaos associated with a strip mine for a few years.
    It is the individuals’ decision to make. The anti-coal mining camp may pursue all legal recourse, may lobby the county board to keep their road intact, lobby the attorney general, lobby the governor and may make a symbolic stand. But when it comes to money, we know who usually wins. The takeaway: Decide where you want to live and be prepared to either pack up and leave or stand your ground no matter how troubling the situation becomes. There is no such thing as a dead mine and the community will not save you.
    I think of Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery.” When the woman draws the slip of paper with the coal black dot on it, she is the one marked to be stoned. Her pleas for the mercy of her neighbors fall on deaf ears, because to save that one means someone else would have to take her place. Rocky Branch drew the marked slip and the county board Tuesday voted to let the coal mine take their road away.
    All of us who live in an area of reclaimed strip mines should pay close attention. We could be next. Considering the vastness of the strip mining operations in Saline County and bordering counties, maybe we should all consider ourselves only temporary residents. Our area decided a long time ago it would be a coal mining area. To those who believe otherwise, good luck.
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