Environmental, social and economic impacts of the mining sector are evaluated separately or holistically with different tools at the project- and strategic-level in order to achieve effective resource management and to prevent unsound mining operations. As coal is one of the extensively utilized primary energy sources in the world, the coal mining and its negative impacts are criticized frequently in terms of sustainability criteria. Therefore, integrating the sustainability criteria at the strategic level decision-making of the coal mining sector planning potentially contributes to exploration, exploitation and utilization of the available resources globally. Regarding this, an indicator-based strategic level sustainability assessment framework is discussed for quantifying and comparing the sustainability levels of the mining sector plans holistically based on the sustainability criteria defined by the local communities in the potential operation region. The proposed framework is implemented with a case study for the open cast lignite mining plan alternatives in the Afsin-Elbistan Coal Basin (AECB) in Turkey. (C) 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.