BNI History

BNI Coal Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of ALLETE (NYSE-ALE), owns and operates the Center Mine near Center, North Dakota. BNI Coal's surface mine supplies lignite coal to fuel the nearby Milton R. Young steam electric Generating Station, Units I and II.

In 1930, Harris M. Baukol, his brothers and L.L. Monson formed Baukol-Noonan Lignite, Inc. and Noonan Holding Company. The companies began mining near Noonan, North Dakota. In 1949, the businesses were assumed by a successor company, Baukol-Noonan, Inc. Operations at the Center mine began in 1970.

In 1988, Baukol-Noonan was purchased by Minnesota Power Company currently known as (ALLETE). Baukol-Noonan changed its name to BNI Coal Ltd. and relocated its headquarters to Bismarck, North Dakota.

Today, BNI mines about 4.5 million tons of lignite coal annually, supplying both units of the Young Station. The mining process disturbs and reclaims approximately 210 acres per year. And with reserves of 600 million tons, BNI has ample capacity to expand production.

Learn more about our 80 year history:


The Beginning

Harris M. Baukol, his brothers and L.L. Monson form Baukol-Noonan Lignite, Inc. and Noonan Holding Company.



Baukol-Noonan, Inc. is incorporated, selling all its capital stock to North Dakotans.


Noonan, ND

Operating as Baukol-Noonan, Inc., the company begins mining near Noonan, N.D.


Leases Acquired

Baukol-Noonan acquires coal leases covering 15,000 acres near Center, N.D., from Minnkota Power Cooperative, a Grand Forks supplier of electricity to 13 rural electric cooperatives in eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota.


Supplying Young Station

Mining begins at the Center mine, supplying about 1.5 million tons of lignite a year to Minnkota Power's Milton R. Young Station.


Production Doubles

The Center mine production increases more than twofold to fuel a second generating unit at the Young Station, the Square Butte unit, which supplies electricity to Minnkota Power and Minnesota Power Company, a northern Minnesota electric utility with headquarters in Duluth.


3.4 Million Tons

The Center mine delivers 3.4 million tons of lignite to the Young Station. Mining ceases at the Noonan mine.


Purchased and Renamed

Baukol-Noonan purchased by Minnesota Power continues as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Duluth based firm, changing its name to BNI Coal, Ltd. and relocating its headquarters to Bismarck, N.D.


Record Year

BNI Coal produces a record 4.3 million tons of lignite for the Young Station whose two generating units are commended for having the second lowest production cost of 798 coal, nuclear, oil or gas fueled U.S. power plants.


Another Record Year

BNI sets another production record of 4.528 million tons of lignite coal.


And Yet Again

As a final accomplishment of the twentieth century, BNI breaks it's 1996 production record.


100 Million Tons

BNI sells 100 millionth ton from Center Mine in October.


Record Production

BNI sets yet another production record of 4.599 million tons of lignite coal.


New Dragline

BNI commissions a new Bucyrus 8200 dragline.


Conservation Achievement Award

BNI was given the ND Soil Conservation Achievement Award for Oliver County.


Distinguished Service Award

BNI employees receive Distinguished Service Award for their North Dakota Hospitality, Cooperation and Commitment to Excellence in growing ALLETE’s Renewable Energy Strategy. BNI’s parent company launches Bison Wind Farm near New Salem, ND.


Patriotic Employer

BNI recognized as a Patriotic Employer by the national committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve and for supporting employee participation in the National Guard and Army Reserve Force.



BNI hires 30 new employees in one year.


New Construction

Construction of a new shop and wash bay were completed at the Center Mine.


New Fleet

BNI establishes a truck/shovel fleet operation.


First Electronic Permit

BNI submits it’s first electronic format permit to the public service commission for the addition of the new mining AREA C.


Public Service Commission Award

BNI Receives ND Public Service Commission award for going beyond regulations in the reclamation process.


Safety Award

BNI receives Safety Award for achieving lower than industry’s average accident rate.


CSA Extension

The Coal Supply Agreement with Minnkota Power Cooperative and Square Butte Electric Cooperative was extended through 2037.


New Mining Area

New mining Area C (an additional 8,500 acres) was approved by the Public Service Commission and work began to prepare area for active mining.


Community Service

BNI Coal receives award for employee participation in community service involvement with Sporting Chance.


Remodel Complete

Inventory Warehouse at the Center Mine completes remodel.


Corporate Giving

BNI Coal employees receive recognition from Missouri Slope Areawide United Way for donations putting them in the top 20 corporate givers for the second consecutive year.


On The Move

BNI moves two draglines (using Mammoet Company) to Area C and mining begins.


Facilities Expansion

Center Mine facilities expansion and remodel are completed.


BNI Gear Store

BNI Gear Store opens at the Mine offering quality BNI logo merchandise.


Dragline Upgrade

BNI completed the 757 dragline new tub project, replacing the 40 year old tub with a tub 62 feet across and weighing around one million pounds.


Reclamation Award

Public Service Commission recognizes BNI Coal with the North Dakota Award for Excellence in Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation for the work of Reclaiming an Inert Waste Disposal Facility at the Center Mine.


4.65 Million Tons Delivered

BNI delivers record number of tons: 4.65 million tons in 2017.


Mass Text Communications

BNI’s Safety Improvement Team advances safety procedures with communications by Mass Text.


Safety Achievement

BNI celebrates 1000 days with no Lost Time Accidents.


Major Donation for Engineering Education

BNI Energy donated $25,000 toward the new home of University of Mary’s School of Engineering.


50 Years of Mining

BNI Coal celebrates 50 years of mining coal at the Center, ND mine.


Corporate Giving

BNI donates $20,000 to the Bismarck Cancer Center expansion project, and another $20,000 over four-years to the City of Center Park Board Pool Project.


Mike Heger Promoted

Mike Heger promoted to general manager at BNI.


New Dragline

BNI Coal commissions new Legacy 757 dragline.


Corporate Giving

BNI donates $25,000 over five years to the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library.


Mining Plans Approved

ND Senator John Hoeven assists BNI in securing the U.S. Department of Interior’s approval of the Center Mine’s Section 20 mine plan.


Safety Award

BNI Coal receives Lignite Energy Council – 2022 Safety Excellence Award.