Joint Session Hears Frac Mining Debate

Posted at: 02/19/2013 6:41 PM
By: Brianna Long

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- It's been a hot issue across the area, and Tuesday the debate over Silica Sand mining went from Southeast Minnesota, to the state capitol.

It was a packed house in room 115 at the state capitol today. Opponents of frac sand mining from across the area, including Winona, Filmore, and Wabasha counties testified at the hearing. People from the sand mining industry were also there. One of the main points of concern was regulation.

Two big questions were posed Tuesday during the joint committee meeting in St. Paul. First, how does silica sand mining affect the environment?

"Regarding water; millions of gallons of water per day will be consumed with polycrylamides for washing. We're already facing a drought in Minnesota. We need to get smart about this," said Jody McIlrath with Save our Bluffs.

"When we mine one of our quarries, we'll be reclaiming it and donating it to the city for a water re-use holding pond," said Scott Sustacek, with Jordan Sands.

Second, who should regulate it, state or local governments?

"A town the size of Wabasha doesn't have the personel to monitor the impacts of frac sand businesses," said Wabasha City Council Member Lynn Schoen.

Activists are hoping for a statewide moratorium on new mines so that state organizations can study the impacts on silica sand to the environment, transportation, and health.

"This is really heavy industrial mining at its best and certainly impacts many more people than just the local people" 

The mining companies say there are already plenty of regulations in place.

"We feel we have some of the best sand in the best place. It's a mining district, rail line, and everything is in place. Mining has been going on for 60 years," said Mike Caron, with Tiller Corporation.

Tuesday's meeting was just a hearing, giving people on both sides the chance to voice their opinions. The committee will now take all of the information they got today, and see if they need to come up with a bill to present to the House and Senate.