ND coal production in 2017 highest since 2009

File Photo
A dragline removed overburden at a coal mine in western North Dakota. The largest lignite mine in the United States – the Freedom Mine north of Beulah – sold the most coal during 2017.

File Photo A dragline removed overburden at a coal mine in western North Dakota. The largest lignite mine in the United States – the Freedom Mine north of Beulah – sold the most coal during 2017.

The five North Dakota lignite mines in North Dakota produced 29.1 million tons in 2017, which was the highest annual tonnage since 2009. The total last year was up 1.4 million tons from 2016 and more than a million tons from the five-year average of 28.1 million tons.

“Higher than average sales demonstrates the success at the mines and plants to reduce costs and keep lignite-based electricity competitive with other sources. Generation also benefited from a strong economy in our region and the growth in industry, businesses and new homes,” said Jason Bohrer, president and CEO of the Lignite Energy Council. “Production was also helped by a cold snap that gripped the Upper Midwest toward the end of the year.”

BNI Coal’s Center Mine produced more than 4.6 million tons in 2017, shattering its previous record for the most coal mined in one year. The Center Mine sells the majority of its coal to the adjacent Milton R. Young Station, which recorded its second highest peak for most electricity generated in a single year over the past 40 years. The production in 2017 reflects the ongoing investments in the plant to keep it operating efficiently and cleanly. The Young Station received more than $425 million in environmental upgrades over the past 10 years. Both the Center Mine and the Young Station are in Oliver County.

The largest lignite mine in the United States – the Freedom Mine north of Beulah – sold the most coal during 2017. More than 14.7 million tons of lignite were produced and sold to the Antelope Valley Station, Leland Olds Station and the Great Plains Synfuels Plant. All three plants are owned by Basin Electric Power Cooperative.

North Dakota’s second largest lignite mine is operated by the Falkirk Mining Company near Underwood. It produced 7.2 million tons last year, which were sold to Great River Energy’s Coal Creek Station and Spiritwood Station.

North Dakota’s newest mine – the Coyote Creek Mine – sold 2.1 million tons to the Coyote Station. North American Coal Corporation owns the Freedom Mine, the Falkirk Mine and the Coyote Creek Mine.

Dakota Westmoreland’s Beulah Mine sold 437,000 tons to Montana-Dakota’s Heskett Station north of Mandan.

“The lignite industry is unique in that our plants are generally adjacent to the mines, which reduces if not eliminates transportation costs,” Bohrer said. “It also means that our state benefits from the jobs associated from both the mines and the power plants along with low-cost, reliable electricity generated from lignite.”

Currently, North Dakota’s seven lignite-based power plants generate enough electricity to serve 2 million families in North Dakota and surrounding states.

The Lignite Energy Council is a regional trade association representing North Dakota lignite producers, electric utilities and approximately 300 businesses providing goods and services to the mines and plants. The lignite industry generates approximately $3.5 billion in gross business volume within the state.

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