BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The first person to spot it was a shovel operator working the overnight shift, eyeing a glint of white as he scooped up a giant mound of dirt and dropped it into a dump truck. Later, after the truck driver dumped the load, a dozer driver was ready to flatten the dirt but stopped for a closer look when he, too, spotted that bit of white.
Only then did the miners realize they had unearthed something special: a 7-foot-long mammoth tusk that had been buried for thousands of years.
“We were very fortunate, lucky to find what we found,” said David Straley, an executive of North American Coal, which owns the mine.
The miners unearthed the tusk from an old streambed, about 40 feet (12.1 meters) deep, at the Freedom Mine near Beulah, North Dakota. The 45,000-acre (18,210-hectare) surface mine produces up to 16 million tons (14.5 million metric tons) of lignite coal per year.