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Closing of the Minonk Coal Mine in 1951

Submitted by Terri Taylor - November 11, 2007

Editor's note: This article came from the Toluca Star Herald, Number 8, Volume No. 59, Friday, February 23, 1951 and was submitted to us by Terri Taylor who is the publisher of the Toluca History Books.

The Minonk coal mines closed last week after more than a half century of operation. The announcement of the closing was made last week by W G Sutton, owner & operator of the property since April 1904.

Mr. Sutton made the announcement with regret; but stated that the latest pay increase, decreed for the workers by agreement of the union & the big time coal operators, has made it impossible to continue the operations of the Minonk mine without losing money. He states emphatically that he hopes this will be only a temporary closing & he has left the door open for further negotiations with the with the United Mine Workers union; but he points out that it is impossible for the thin veined type of mine, such as we have at Minonk to compete on equal terms with the thick veined southern mines on the same kind of wage contract.

Production at the local mines averages about 2 and 1/2 tons of coal per man, he says, while the Southern Illinois mines average 10 to 15 tons. On that basis, he cannot continue operation of the Minonk mine & pay a straight "per day" wage increase; although profitable operation is still possible on a "per ton" wage increase, he believes. Under the present contract he says he would have to raise the price of his coal by at least $1.00 per ton.

There are about 65 employed at the Minonk mine now, including miners from Minonk, Rutland, Toluca, Spring Valley, Mark, Wenona & LaSalle. Increasing costs through the years have forced the closing of the coal mines in all those towns mentioned above, as well as the Roanoke mine. However, by giving the business his personal attention & supervision, Mr. Sutton has managed to keep the Minonk coal mine in operation here all these years, while those others, with the same type & quality of coal, have had to close because they could not meet competition from the thick veined southern mines. There is only 1 other coal mine in operation in this entire area, at Streator.

Mr. Sutton states that there is a good supply of coal still available here. He estimates there are upwards of 3 million tons & it is close to the shaft, too, because so far they have mined only the area west of the shaft leaving the whole east side untouched. He is still hopeful that some agreement may be worked out whereby the mine can continue in operation at Minonk.