Coal Mine

The Binek Coal Mine:  This reproduction of the Binek Coal Mine was donated by Ted Binek and is located just down the hill from the oil pumpjack in Prairie Outpost Park.  The coal mine depicts the entrance of a tunnel coal mine from the early 1900s that operated southeast of Dickinson.  The coal cars date from 1910.

Frank Binek started mining at Hebron in 1906 and opened the Binek Coal Mine near Dickinson around 1920.  Using dynamite, picks, and shovels, ten men could mine about one hundred tons of coal a day.  For this work they were paid about $7 a day.  At that time, coal sold for about $12.50 a ton, but the price later dropped during the depression to 75 cents a ton.  Families who stripped coal themselves during the depression could obtain coal for about 25 cents a ton.  In the 1940s, about 35,000-40,000 tons of coal were produced at the Binek mine.  This coal was used to make briquettes.   These mines were abandoned in 1946 as strip-mining took over.  The Binek family still mined coal in the 1980s and served as mine operators for the Husky company (a briquette making plant).  In the early 1980s, their company, Dickinson Coal Mine Company, produced 2,500-3,000 tons a year.

History of coal mining in the Dickinson area:  One of the first mentions of coal mining in the Dickinson area was in the 1880s, when Moses Lenneville opened a coal mine to supply his neighbors with fuel.  This was on his homestead, on the southeast of town along the Heart River.  This site was later the location of the city’s sewage treatment plant.  Mining on a commercial basis began several miles east of town in the 1880s as well.  By 1933, there were thirty-seven mines listed as operating in Stark County.  One mine in the area was sold in 1894 to Consolidated Coal (which sold White Ash Coal lignite brand).  The mine’s capacity was about 250 tons a day, or 40 cars, in 1912.  There were several other mining companies involved in early underground mines east of Dickinson, which can be identified now by the sinkholes where underground caverns have collapsed.  These mines were largely abandoned in 1946 as strip mining became prevalent.  The White Coal Company owned a mine in this area at the turn of the century.  There was also the Pittsburgh mine, the Dakota Fuel Company (in 1912 they had about 400 tons a day output), and the Lehigh Briquetting Company.  The coal industry has been an important economic influence in North Dakota, although most coal in the state is now extracted through strip mining.

Briquettes: As early as 1900, a process was discovered in Germany for extracting oil and water from raw coal and compacting the leftover char into large pellets for a more efficient fuel.  Dickinson business leaders were discussing the development of a company to produce briquettes as early as 1917, but construction didn’t start on a plant until 1928.  In 1929, carbonizing equipment began to arrive from Germany, and in 1935 the plant expanded.  Various companies ran the plant for the next few decades, but by the 1950s, natural gas heat had become popular and the demand for fuel briquette dropped.  By 1959 the plant was acquired by Husky Industries, who began manufacturing a barbecue briquette.

[Source: Cole, Janell ed. Centennial Roundup: A History of Dickinson, North Dakota. Richardton, North Dakota: Assumption Abbey Press, 1982.]

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