February 11, 2015

Huge draglines to make slow treks to new site

By Annette Tait
When a vehicle only travels at about a mile an hour, one might expect that the three to four days needed to move it from point A to point B would be the most time-consuming part of the process. Unless the move includes assembling a transport vehicle and positioning two draglines – one weighing 4,300 tons and the other 900 tons, with booms respectively measuring 355 feet and 190 feet -- on the transport. Then it takes several weeks, as the draglines will be moved one at a time, each requiring about a one-hour closure of 37th Avenue SW south of Highway 25.
“BNI is excited about this event,” BNI Coal Manager of Engineering Mike Heger told the Oliver County commissioners at their meeting last week. “It’s kind of the capstone project on something that’s been happening for 10-15 years. That’s when BNI and Minnkota were kind of at a fork in the road as to what would be happening in Oliver County. Both companies went all out to position themselves for what would be happening over the next 25 years in Oliver County.”
Heger explained that about 15 years ago, BNI and Minnkota were at the point where Young station was paid for and had been depreciated, leaving the two companies to determine whether it would be viable to continue to generate power at the plant. The companies’ boards of directors ultimately decided to continue to run Young Station, which led to a half billion dollars of investment in scrubbers at Minnkota. “That is clearly an indication that they plan to be here for a long time,” Heger said. “With that, BNI plans to service Minnkota for the time that they continue running.” BNI’s commitment to Minnkota led the company to make its own investments in improvements, equipment, and workforce, and to extend the coal agreement with Minnkota until 2037. In order to do so, BNI worked successfully to permit additional land for mining and to petition for closure of a section of road to increase safety near the new mining activity.


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