CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois Department of Natural Resources approved the first of three permits for a coal company’s plan to discharge waste water from a mine into the Big Muddy River.

The Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale reports that Williamson Energy LLC’s Pond Creek Mine pipeline would dump millions of gallons of mine wastewater into the river.

The department made a final decision in December on Williamson Energy’s application through its Office of Mines and Minerals.

The company still needs authorization from the state’s Environmental Protection Agency, which is awaiting its application fee.

Critics say they will continue efforts to halt the pipeline.