Protests and Activity at Rocky Branch Mine

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By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Andy Shofstall

SALINE COUNTY -- Despite ongoing complaints from homeowners work is moving forward on a new coal mine in Saline County. Peabody coal is now transporting heavy equipment into place for the Rocky Branch mine. 

The surface mine will be located east of Harrisburg in eastern Saline County, south of the company's current Cottage Grove surface mine. 
 
For the past couple days, the work has led to road closures and power outages.
 
It's a sight that is too much for one local homeowner.
 
"I'm trying to save my home," said Glen Kellen. "Keep Peabody from blasting me off the face of the earth."
 
Parts of old and new Route 13 have been closed for a couple days. That allows the company to send heavy equipment from its neighboring Cottage Grove mine to the new surface mine.
     
"I'd like to see them move back across the road," said Kellen. 
 
Kellen has lived in the community since the 1970s. On Tuesday, he took a cross and a message to where he thought the workers could really see him.
 
"I was gonna protest over there," said Kellen. "I went across behind the barrier there, and they arrested me."
 
A few hours later, Rocky Branch residents and activists met at the Saline County jail to bail out Kellen on trespassing charges.
 
"It's really close to their homes," said Shawnee Hills and Hollers founder Georgia de la Garza. "They've seen the devastation in Cottage Grove."
 
De la Garza has been helping local homeowners who want to stop the mine. Many just received a notice from Peabody letting them know blasting will start in the coming days.
 
The group is appealing Peabody's state permit. However, efforts to block the company from taking over Rocky Branch Road have been setback. 
 
The residents are now busy collecting data while the mine takes shape. 
 
"We've done photographs, videos of everyone's homes," said De la Garza. "We've done samples, all kinds of water samples and soil samples are in the process."
 
A Peabody spokesperson released this statement:
 
"Cottage Grove Mine is advancing its mining operations into the Rocky Branch permit area as anticipated.  All current activities are authorized through state and federal permits.
  
As a standard safety precaution, Southeast Power disconnected power lines to the area to accommodate movement of large mining equipment.  It is normal protocol for the power company to notify residents of planned outages.  We apologize for any inconvenience the outage caused for local residents."  
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