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6 things you might not know about coal mining

Baseload generation plays a vital role in the diverse energy portfolio needed to supply Cass County Electric Cooperative members with safe, reliable and affordable energy. Minnkota’s Milton R. Young Station is a mine-mouth generation facility that is powered by the abundant supply of lignite coal mined in western North Dakota. There are many misconceptions about coal, so here are a few North Dakota mining facts that may be new to you.

  1. Before mining takes place in North Dakota, extensive geological surveys, drilling, and sampling must be completed to determine the quality and quantity of coal deposits in an area. By understanding the geology of the area, efficient and cost-effective mining plans are developed to maximize coal recovery while minimizing environmental impacts.

  2. Coal mining has a significant impact on the local economy. It provides jobs for thousands of people in North Dakota and contributes to the overall energy production of the United States. The lignite energy industry also supports other crucial occupations such as transportation, manufacturing, and construction.

  3. Open-pit mining is used to remove layers of soil and rock to expose the coal seams. Large machinery, such as draglines and bucket wheel excavators, are used to extract the coal from the open pits and transport it to the Young Station.

  4. BNI Coal, Minnkota’s lignite coal provider, recently commissioned the world’s newest 757 dragline to its fleet in 2022. Named Legacy, it operates alongside two other draglines in Center, N.D. – Liberty and Big Sandy. Draglines operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and can weigh more than 6,000 tons.

  5. Raw lignite coal undergoes various processes to remove impurities and prepare it for use at the Young Station. This can include crushing, screening, washing, and sorting the coal to meet specific quality requirements.

  6. Once mining activities are completed in a specific area, the land is reclaimed and restored to its natural state – or better. This involves leveling the land to allow for proper water drainage, replacing topsoil, and reestablishing native vegetation to promote ecological recovery. Ongoing monitoring and maintenance are conducted to ensure the success of the reclamation efforts.


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