My First Day in Coal Country

Posted August 25, 2016

By Megan Babel

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North Dakota legislators, legislative candidates, and LEC President Jason Bohrer toured Antelope Valley Station and the Freedom Mine. 

When thinking about your first day at a new job, it’s typically the same everywhere you go: paperwork, a tour of the office, and meeting the staff. But my first day as a communication specialist at the Lignite Energy Council in Bismarck, North Dakota, wasn’t typical.

My paperwork included handing out name tags and hard hats. Instead of touring the office, I toured Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Antelope Valley Station (AVS) and the Coteau Properties Company’s Freedom Mine, and along with meeting staff, I also met roughly 30 legislators and legislative candidates from around North Dakota.

It wasn’t just my first day at a new job; it was my first day in coal country, and I learned a lot about the use of lignite coal and its economic benefits. Like many of the legislative candidates, I was also getting my first tour of a working mine and power plant. The mine is the largest lignite mine in the United States and the power plant is the second largest in North Dakota.

Participants got a firsthand look at the AVS energy conversion and emissions control areas, as well as the Freedom Mine’s surface mining and reclamation areas.

For my first day, the legislative tour offered me an opportunity and I learned that the people who mine coal for a living begin thinking about how to responsibly put the land back before even touching it.

Here’s some of the things I learned:

• Water quality is checked regularly.
• Top soil and sub soil are piled separately and saved for the reclamation process.
• The land is held under bond for a minimum of 10 years after mining and can be released once they prove the land is just as good as or better than pre-mining.

The legacy of the Freedom Mine and the other four lignite mines in North Dakota is to leave the land even better for future generations.

Safety is another important goal at the Freedom Mine. They have been recognized and received rewards from the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation, North Dakota Game and Fish Department, and the North Dakota Public Service Commission.

The staffs at the Antelope Valley Station and the Freedom Mine were friendly, knowledgeable, and encouraged questions.

AVS is a mine-mouth power plant that’s located next to the Freedom Mine. It is also a neighbor of the sprawling Great Plains Synfuels Plant.

The mine produces fuel for both of the plants along with another power plant down the road – the Leland Olds Station. Basin Electric, the owner of the plants, works hand in hand with the Freedom Mine to ensure that all environmental standards are met. Electricity from the plants serves customers not only in North Dakota but also neighboring states.

Touring coal country with a busload of legislators and candidates was a great way to begin my journey with the Lignite Energy Council.