Bulldozers, coal haulers and several other pieces of equipment belonging to Dakota Westmoreland mine near Beulah were auctioned Friday as the operator retrenches after losing its primary coal contract.
The auction and dozens of layoffs that took place earlier this year come after the nearby Coyote Station power plant decided to leave Dakota Westmoreland for another supplier, The Bismarck Tribune reported. Some of the coal miners who lost their jobs quietly watched as the items were sold.
Mandan resident Jim Wagner was among the miners who observed the auction. He said he had operated every piece of equipment in the auction yard during his tenure at the mine, which began in 1981.
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“It’s a sad deal today,” said Wagner, who is one of the 19 miners still employed at Dakota Westmoreland. “It’s a bummer that they lost the contract and it’s sad to see the (coal miners’) union go away.”
Last month, Coyote Station started taking coal from a new North American Coal Corp. operation. North American is already the biggest coal operator in the state, with the Coteau Freedom mine north of Beulah and the Falkirk Mine near Underwood.
Coyote Station owners have said they switched coal suppliers because North American could offer a better price.
More than 140 bidders traveled to the mine for the auction and 35 others participated online. Bulldozers that sell for more than $1 million new were sold for $140,000 used. Coal haul trucks went for $60,000, while cranes sold for $8,000.
“The best equipment you’ll ever find is on a coal mine,” said Dan Knell, a Hazen resident who retired after the mine lost the contract. He had worked as a miner, maintenance worker and shop mechanic.
Mine production manager Perry Voegele told the newspaper that the auction’s turnout wasn’t bad, but it was less than expected.