Friday, May 30, 2014 3:22 PM
The number of acres BNI Coal has permitted for mining has nearly doubled. On Wednesday, the North Dakota Public Service Commission approved BNI’s application to add about another 8,500 acres to its existing permit.
With this approval the total number of acres under permit jumps to about 18,000 acres from the current 9,700 acres and clears the way for development of the site to continue on schedule. Roadwork and other surface preparation in Area C, about four miles south of the Milton R. Young Station near Center, N.D., is expected to begin this year with lignite mining to start in 2015. BNI expects the first year of production to yield about 2½ million tons of lignite.
Jay Volk, environmental manager, led the Area C permit application team which also included engineering manager Mike Heger, mining engineer Jodey Houn, permit coordinator Karene Hall, geologist Derrick Placek, environmental/GIS specialist Stephanie Paavola and mining engineer Jon Rudnick.
“I am very pleased not only with the successful outcome but even more so with how we accomplished it, enhancing our relationships with community, landowners, and regulators while developing internal talent along the way,” said BNI President and General Manager Wade Boeshans. “No one on the team working on this permit application had previous experience obtaining a large mining permit. Jay and his team did an exceptional job.”
The Public Service Commission’s reclamation division commended BNI for its collaborative approach and community engagement throughout the permitting process, which started about three years ago following a long-range mine study. The division also pointed out that there were no public comments contesting the application.
The permitting process involved baseline analysis of vegetation, wildlife and archeology in the path of future mining, as well as ground and surface water monitoring and “compliance” drilling to analyze the lignite and soil and rock that lies over it.
“This permit addition was clearly a collaborative effort from all of the team members, all investing a significant portion of time since 2011, while assuring the compliance and permitting requirements of the active mining permits were still being met,” Volk said. “With the permit approval we not only gained more acreage, but we also gained significant experience as a department and have built stronger relationships with the regulators and local landowners.”
ALLETE Chairman, President and CEO Al Hodnik congratulated Boeshans and the BNI team.
“Energy rich North Dakota is integral to our multifaceted and multiyear strategy and BNI Coal has and continues to play a key role,” Hodnik said. “Wade Boeshans and his entire team have done a terrific job developing and executing a strategy in full harmony with our longstanding business partner Minnkota Power and North Dakota regulatory agencies. This outcome assures me that we are truly transferring our core values to the next generation and reminds us all that achieving the right results the right way pays the very best form of relationship dividends.”
The permit approval comes on the heels of a 10-year contract extension with Minnkota Power Cooperative in April. Almost all of BNI’s current lignite production is consumed by Minnkota’s Young Station.
BNI opened the Center Mine in 1970 and excavation and reclamation have proceeded in a westerly direction for the past four decades. Now BNI will take part of the company’s mining operation in a southerly direction while continuing its steady westward expansion. BNI has a long history of strong landowner and community relationships as well as a strong environmental record for its mine land reclamation efforts.