North Dakota is coal country. In close proximity to the Mesabi Iron Range, the state contains an estimated 25 billion tons of economically mineable coal. Unsurprisingly, coal plays a large part in North Dakota’s economy. Currently, six operations mine 32 million tons of coal annually in North Dakota. One of these operations is BNI Coal, LTD. BNI Coal, LTD, a subsidiary of BNI Energy, Inc., is currently developing North Dakota’s abundant lignite energy resource. At its center mine, BNI mines and reclaims an estimated 200 acres per year to supply lignite coal to fuel the Milton R. Young Generation Station. The Young station generates low-cost, reliable domestic energy for customers in North Dakota and Minnesota. Serving as Maintenance Supervisor for Mobile Equipment, Allen Johnson is responsible for keeping the entire BNI Coal fleet rolling. Pickups, draglines, coal haulers, large front-end loaders, and more make their way through Johnson’s shop. “Everything that rolls is on us to keep running,” said Johnson. “I personally oversee all maintenance and plan out all of those projects in terms of machinery building and assembly.”


To help keep BNI Coal’s fleet on the job to generate domestic energy, Johnson and his team have relied on L&M Radiator, Inc. for more than four decades.

“It’s been 40-plus years since we began using their radiators,” said Johnson. “They have a really good product. Just about everything we have out here we’ve swapped the OEM radiator to a MESABI®.”

Rewinding over 40 years, Johnson credits multiple factors of MESABI® Radiators that led to this longstanding partnership.

“One of the largest reasons we started working with L&M was the ability to repair part of the radiator without working on the whole thing,” Johnson said. “With an OEM radiator, you have to replace the whole core if you have an issue, like a rock putting a hole in the tubes.”

Beyond reparability, the design and configuration of MESABI® Radiators have allowed Johnson and his team to significantly reduce cleaning and maintenance time on his mining machines.

“They’ve designed their tubes and fins to keep debris out of the radiator, and that’s a big plus for the environment we’re running in,” said Johnson.

Mining equipment around the world is often exposed to environments overcome with dirt and debris. MESABI® products are engineered and manufactured with a special tube design and configuration. The unique shape allows outside debris to effectively pass through the radiator, rather than clog it.


Above the product itself, L&M Radiator, Inc.’s 40+ years of partnership with BNI Coal is centered on service. Like all L&M Radiator, Inc. customers, Johnson works one on one with his dedicated sales representative, Steve Smith.

“Steve’s a great guy to work with,” said Johnson. “He routinely calls to see how things are going and seems to go the extra mile if I need him for something.”

Specifically, Smith and L&M Radiator, Inc. have fulfilled requests under tight timeframes for Johnson and his team.

“There have been cases where I couldn’t have done more than four weeks for turnaround,” said Johnson. “For one radiator, we pulled it out on April 18th, and our machine was fired up with a new radiator on May 11th.”

In another instance, Johnson and his team requested a radiator in three weeks. To ensure equipment stayed on the job, Smith, and team worked to replace the radiator in half the time allotted.

Multiple successful factors must be present for any partnership to last 40 years. For BNI Coal and L&M Radiator, Inc., communication, quality and service have led to sharp success helping keep domestic energy production in North Dakota and Minnesota at a high level.


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