Mining begins at opencast site
The first of 1.5 million tonnes of coal and fireclay has been dug at an opencast mine.
Work began at UK Coal's Minorca mine, between Measham, Snarestone and Swepstone, five months after preparatory operations began.
The mining is expected to last for four-and-a-half years, but neighbours said they were worried preparatory drilling might lead to an application to extend the site.
John Crane, who lives in Bosworth Road, Measham, said: "Villagers can be in no doubt coal mining has finally started.
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"The noise we are experiencing is significantly more than even we anticipated.
"You can see up to 20 massive diggers and dumper trucks charging around and there's a deep rumbling noise throughout the day.
"They are not even at our field yet, so we're bracing ourselves for considerably more noise before it gets better."
The planning permission granted by Leicestershire County Council stipulated that the site should be fully restored within five years.
However, UK Coal has been granted an exploratory drilling licence by the Coal Authority to investigate reserves immediately north of the mine, on a site it is already referring to as Minorca North.
Mr Crane said: "We want this mine to be done and go away, so there is a lot of concern over where they are going after.
"The threat is real and turns five years of noise and disturbance into 10."
Measham resident Steve Leary, whose home is about 300 metres from the mine, said: "It's a massive eyesore blighting a whole swathe of countryside.
"The big issue with this mine is it is far too close to homes."
Simon Taylor, director of surface mining at UK Coal, said: "We're very excited to have reached this milestone at Minorca.
"We're proud of our track record. We operate our sites effectively, efficiently and sensitively, with one of the best safety records in the industry."
A spokesman for UK Coal said exploratory drilling north of Minorca concluded at the end of last month and the results were being analysed.
He said: "Once the data has been interpreted, a smaller, second phase of drilling will be required."
She said a decision on whether to submit a second planning application would not be made before 2014.