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Minnesota Frac Sand Plant Proposal Stirs Up Controversy

A possible $70 million frac sand plant and rail depot is stirring up controversy in St. Charles, Minn. According to local news sources, a 300-acre soy bean field outside of St. Charles could soon be the site of one of the largest frac sand processing plants in the country.

Nick Koverman, city administrator of St. Charles, says the idea of a large frac sand processing plant has many concerned. “Not knowing the impact it will make, some of the immediate concerns are truck traffic, water table issues, noise and dust,” Koverman told KAAL TV.

Minnesota Proppant says the proposed processing plant and rail depot would see around 50 trucks a day and would send one full rail cart up to North Dakota daily. “This is a state-of-the-art plant and we have taken into consideration and have gone above and beyond what is necessary,” the company said.

The plant could create as many as 200 jobs with benefits, and farmers or land owners that sit on the sand could make an estimated $200,000 to $800,000 per year for land rights.

The disagreement on frac mining sites across Minnesota was highlighted by an environmental group that is calling for a moratorium on new sites. Environment Minnesota Research and Policy Center, along with neighbors of existing and proposed mining sites, gathered in Winona, Minn., to push a three-year moratorium on future frac sand mining sites.

The three-year moratorium request, which will be sent to Gov. Mark Dayton with more than 400 signatures, is the latest attempt to slow the momentum of frac sand mining operations.

“Frac sand mining has come just so quickly to this region that there's been, shockingly, little study of its impacts,” said Samantha Chadwick with Environment Minnesota Research and Policy Center. “So, what we want is time to understand the risks and to figure out how to best protect communities in Minnesota from the dangers, or if it should be allowed at all.”