Falkirk Mine strives to improve in important areas
All of the electricity from Great River Energy’s 1145-megawatt Coal Creek Station near Underwood, N. D., is sold in Minnesota, and all of the coal that is sold to the station comes from the adjacent Falkirk Mine. The relationship between the mine and plant began in 1974 and continues today.
“The amount of electricity from Coal Creek Station that travels on the power lines to Minnesota depends a lot on the job we do at the mine,” says Jay Kost, president of the Falkirk Mining Company. “The energy market is competitive so we have to focus on the things we can control – safety, environmental stewardship and costs.”
The Falkirk Mine averages 7 to 8 million tons of coal sold to Great River Energy every year. The coal is used by Coal Creek Station or is shipped by rail to the Spiritwood Station near Jamestown, N. D.
Coal deliveries to these plants are influenced by the quantity of electricity from wind turbines and the price of natural gas, so keeping fuel costs low is important to the Falkirk Mine.
The mine employs approximately 470 people. Kost said the number of employees significantly increased about 10 years ago when the strip ratio, or depth of the coal seam, increased. This meant the addition of more truck-shovel fleets to remove some of the cover before the massive draglines uncover the coal.
With the addition of new employees, training people to operate the big equipment safely took on new challenges.
“Our employees are very fluid at the mine,” said Dave Sailer, safety manager at the mine. “We have to make sure they are very comfortable in the jobs they are doing and that they feel comfortable when moving to other jobs when needed.”
Environmental stewardship is important not only to the miners but also to Great River Energy’s members
“Our members want electricity that is reliable and affordable with minimal environmental impact,” said Great River Energy Vice President and Chief Generation Officer Rick Lancaster. “Falkirk Mine has been a partner in finding ways to protect air, land and water.”
Jeremy Eckroth, senior environmental specialist at the mine, said it’s up to every employee to ensure that mining and reclamation activities occur in compliance with all state and federal regulations.
“Mining coal is a temporary disturbance of the landscape,” Eckroth noted, “but our legacy at the Falkirk Mine is going to be the quality of the reclamation to return the land to a condition as good as or better than before mining.”
Kost said that being located next to the Coal Creek Station aids in communications between the mine and plant.
“The cost of electricity is dependent to a large extent on the price of the fuel, so we work very hard to keep our costs as low as possible so that the electricity sold is competitive with other power sources – including wind and natural gas-based generation,” said Kost.