Shaft mining of coal began in the Grundy/Will County in the 1860s and grew because the Chicago based railroads were a big market for coal. In fact, some of the railroads bought land and operated their own mines. The last shaft mine was closed in 1954, but many had already closed in the1920s. (Kernc) In 1928, Northern Illinois Coal Company began strip mining. The following are pictures of the Marion Type 5560 shovel that was assembled in 1935 on site after its parts arrived at a railroad spur. It was the largest built at the time with a 32 cu yard capacity bucket. In the left picture, look at the man standing to the right of the base of the boom in front of the control cabin to get some scale.
The following illustrates the end of a dragline and another shovel that was used in the Coal City/Braidwood/Essex area.
A circular prepared in 1985 by the Illinois Department of Energy and Natural Resources defines deep mineable coal as 28 inches or more and having overburden depths of 150 feet or greater. Surface-mineable coal is 18 inches or more in thickness and having overburden not exceeding 150 feet. Grundy County still has 453 million tons of surface mineable coal, of which 51 million tons has high development potential. Deep mineable coal amounts to over 1000 times the surface mineable coal at 486,554 million tons. Grundy, Livingston, and LaSalle Counties have six billion tons of coal reserves. Peabody Coal Co. still owns approximately 1200 acres of land in Wauponsee Township with high development potential for surface mining. Goose Lake and Felix Townships still contain 18 million tons of surface mineable coal. When the thicker seams of Southern Illinois are mined out, attention may again turn to the resources that remain in the area.But I assume all Illinois coal has a high sulfur content, so I think the southern mines will also close before they are mined out. Currently Illinois coal is being shipped to China because Illinois burns coal from Wyoming. And that coal is being replaced by natural gas and wind power.
About two-thirds of Illinois is underlain by coal-bearing strata which belong to the Eastern Interior Basin of the Pennsylvania system. The deepest part of this basin is about 2,600 feet in Edwards County, Illinois. Grundy and Will counties are at the margin of the basin. That is why it is relatively close to the surface. In fact, the Illinois river cuts through some of the seams, which is why coal was first discovered in the 1600s in the United States near Ottawa, IL. That is almost a century before it was discovered in other places in this country such as Pennsylvania. (hinton-gen)
The following photos are from Goose Lake Area page with the captions on that page.
|CCPLD: One of the last draglines in Goose Lake Township|
|CCPLD: Peabody's Krupp "Wheel"|
|CCPLD: One of eight crawler tracks of the "wheel"|
|CCPLD: Stripping shovel and coal loading shovel filling a truck|
|CCPLD: Marion dragline with 35 cubic yard bucket|
|CCPLD: Wilmington Coal Mining Company operation|
|CCPLD:Aerial view of the "Northern" tipple|
Below is what the Coal City Area Club grounds looked like when it was mined out in 1955 and before it was converted to a recreational area.
Panning over to the Morris, IL, area confirms those tattoos are also from strip mining coal.
Update: Pyramid State Park illustrates how large the coal mines were in Southern Illinois. This park may contain the 16,000 acres donated by the Captain Mine, at one time the larges surface coal mine in the world. [lexyky]
In 1990 Illinois allocated nearly $10m to clean up abandoned mines. [niu]
History of Reclamation Research