Buzz builds as BNI's giant dragline makes its way to new home

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 3:14 PM 0

Liberty, BNI Coal’s giant dragline, is generating a lot of local attention as it moves to its new location at the mine near Center, N.D.

The 9-million-pound dragline began its move in February, and crossed the DC Line and a county road Thursday. Cars of 30-40 residents lined the road and farmers came in from their fields to take in the rare sight of giant mining equipment on special wheeled vehicles.

Wade Boeshans, general manager and president of BNI Coal, said that at one point the relocation efforts were stopped in order to escort a school bus across the road.

“You could see all the kids’ faces pressed up against the window watching this massive machine as they went by. You know it’s a pretty big deal when the teenagers look up from their phones,” he said.

Crews had to drop a series of power lines, including a direct current transmission line linking Center with a substation near Duluth, to ensure proper clearance for Liberty. As of 11:30 a.m. today, Liberty was 2¾ miles from its destination. The dragline is expected to arrive at its new home late Friday afternoon or early Saturday.

Last year, the number of acres under permit at the Center Mine doubled to about 18,000 acres, and the dragline is making the eight-mile journey to a new area, located about four miles south of the Milton R. Young Generating Station. Nearly all the lignite coal mined by BNI is consumed at the Young station.


Liberty and the smaller Page dragline, which was moved earlier in February, are equipped with a “walking” apparatus that can propel them by way of gears and camshafts connected to two huge mechanical “shoes.” After much analysis, BNI officials determined that it would be more efficient, safe, and cost-effective to transport the draglines to the new location rather than “walk” them.

Photos from top to bottom:
The Liberty dragline is on the move.
BNI, ALLETE and elected officials at a press event last week.