FALKIRK, N.D. -- The big white tube between Washburn and Underwood that once carried coal over U.S. Highway 83 will come down on Monday after spending decades as a landmark along the road.
It's part of a 3-mile conveyor that the Falkirk Mining Co. installed in 1992 to transport coal from its mining operations east of the highway to its handling facilities on the west side. The company last used the conveyor in 2001.
In the years since, Falkirk has relied on large Kress trucks, which can each haul more than 200 tons of coal on a given trip. The vehicles pass underneath the highway.
“Those are much more efficient to haul coal, less costly, easier maintenance,” said David Straley, director of government and public affairs for Falkirk's parent company, North American Coal Corp.
From Falkirk’s handling facilities west of the highway, coal is then carried by other conveyors to Great River Energy’s Coal Creek Station next door. The power plant burns it to generate electricity.
Although Falkirk has not used the conveyor that crosses over the highway for the past 18 years, the company kept it in place as a backup, Straley said. If, for example, the price of diesel fuel spiked, it might make sense to operate the conveyor again in place of the trucks.
As a result, Falkirk has had to maintain the facility to comply with federal regulations, Straley said.
“It just turns out the economics of keeping it as a temporary facility are no longer there,” he said.
Falkirk plans to dismantle and reclaim the entire 3-mile conveyor, not just the part over the highway. Straley said the company put the tube around the conveyor over the road to catch any coal that might get blown off the belt, so that it wouldn't create a traffic hazard.
Falkirk has hired a contractor to tear down the section over the highway. While that’s underway Monday, the state Department of Transportation will temporarily close the highway at 7 a.m. for 24 hours and divert traffic.
Northbound vehicles will exit the highway at Washburn and travel on N.D. Highway 200A north to N.D. Highway 200, which they will take west to Underwood, where they can reenter Highway 83.
Southbound vehicles will exit the highway at Underwood and travel on N.D. Highway 200 east to N.D. Highway 200A, which they will take south to Washburn, where they can reenter Highway 83.