FOTB: Rock in the Bakken: Rancher's rocky land suddenly finds value
BLAISDELL -- Dallas Moore doesn't have oil wells on his ranch, but that doesn't mean his land isn't rich.
His property along U.S. Highway 2 just east of Stanley has a 120-acre gravel mine providing materials for road work and construction projects in northwest North Dakota.
Moore's land has too much gravel to be suitable for farming, but now that rock is a hot commodity.
The mine opened in 2008 to supply material for a North Dakota Department of Transportation project, said Max Schriock, materials engineer and safety director of Aggregate Construction of Minot, which operates the mine.
At that time, there wasn't other demand for the material.
"It started slow," Moore said.
Aggregate Construction began mining again in 2010 for another road project. That year, the demand for material was so intense that contractors would pull off the highway to buy piles of aggregate.
"Since that time, it is just growing by leaps and bounds," Schriock said.
Now tons of gravel are weighed on location and trucked out to concrete vendors throughout the region. It's primarily used for road base and concrete, but some is sold to oil companies for well pads, Schriock said.
Moore said he receives a royalty payment for the material after it is sold.
"I came up with a price that I could live with and they could live with," Moore said.
Schriock said he's seen landowners receive annual royalties in the $50,000 to $60,000 range and all the way up to $250,000 or $500,000.
Moore, 66, said he's working to make improvements to the ranch that has been in his family since 1951. He and his wife hope to build a new home next spring.
"I want to leave everything better than how I got it," Moore said.
Moore was 5 when his father bought the 1,760-acre ranch and recalls it was all bare ground without so much as a fence post.
Today Moore and his two sons have about 300 cattle. The property is also home to the grounds of the Blaisdell Rodeo, which celebrated its 55th year last June.
"The place is important to me," Moore said. "It's got a lot of me in it."
Oil companies have not expressed interest in leasing the property, Moore said.
His land also has a small sand and clay pit, and a company is exploring the quality of rock in a third area.
In addition, Moore has received so many inquiries from people wanting to park campers on his land that he opened a camp with space for 100 RVs. He contracts with someone to manage the park. Moore's next venture will be to add some truck parking along the highway.
The gravel mine will eventually be reclaimed and seeded for alfalfa, Moore said. He's not sure how much longer his ranch will have such a flurry of activity.
"I don't envision it lasting more than a few more years," Moore said.