Frac sand mining has become a divisive topic in the past few years. Advocates say the industry will bring jobs and economic development to the region. But critics, including environmentalists and public health experts, are concerned about how it might affect the environment and human health. Several Minnesota communities have passed moratoriums on mining so they can study the practice, which has already swept parts of Wisconsin. + read more
The strong, round silica sand buried beneath the bluffs near the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin has been mined for more than a century to make window glass, water filtration products and abrasives. The sand is now in high demand for use in a natural gas extraction process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is booming in states like North Dakota and Pennsylvania. When the frac sand is forced into underground rock formations it breaks up the stone, releasing large amounts of natural gas.
Two state agencies in charge of regulating the silica sand mining industry are creating a new advisory committee.
Sand is the crucial ingredient in the oil and natural gas extraction process known as fracking, and there are large deposits of it in the steep bluffs along the Mississippi River. But demand for sand has dropped.
West-central Wisconsin is a hot spot for sand mining and residents have expressed environmental and health concerns about the tiny sand particles generated by mining.
There was consensus that Wisconsin's experience, where many mines have clashed with local communities and in some cases have violated environmental laws, should not be repeated.
Environmental activists complained that the draft standards were looser than some existing local rules. In the end, the board promised to re-write the document with a lot more public and industry input.
State officials want public input on frac sand mining guidelines now in their final stages. But opponents of the practice have not given up hope for an outright ban.
The Planning Commission has approved a conditional use permit for Jordan Sands, an affiliate of Coughlan Companies, which is planning to mine 70 acres and use another 40 acres just north of the city for processing the sand.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and other state agencies are beginning to write new rules for frac sand mining as part of a plan ordered by the Legislature.
Goodhue County commissioners voted today to extend the county's moratorium on frac sand mining by 180 days when the current ban expires next month.
A group of Winona County residents is challenging the county board's decision to approve a frac sand mine.
The owners of a facility used to load frac sand into rail cars are suing the city of Wabasha.
After almost two years of debate, the Goodhue County Board of Commissioners approved two ordinances that will regulate the silica sand mining industry.
Companies looking to mine frac sand in Minnesota would need to get approval from the Department of Natural Resources. The requirement was part of an environment budget bill passed by the Legislature on Saturday night.
Local officials should ask in-depth questions about costs and benefits when they consider whether to permit a frac sand mine, according to a report.
The lawmaker who has pushed this year for tougher state regulation of the frac sand mining industry on Tuesday said DFL legislative leaders have reached a compromise on the legislation.
A closer look at the debate over sand mining in Minnesota and Wisconsin
Minnesota's Chief Geologist Tony Runkel of the Minnesota Geological Survey joins MPR News for an interview about sand deposits and mining operations in the state.