Fears that a Wisconsin-style frac sand mining boom could reach the east metro communities of the Twin Cities drew a crowd of more than 300 people to a forum in Mahtomedi, Minn., according to Minnesota Public Radio.
It isn't likely that Washington County and surrounding areas would become the next site for industrial sand mining to supply hydraulic fracturing rigs with silica sand. But 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.
“Minnesota is not Wisconsin,” said Dennis Egan, who represents the Minnesota Industrial Sand Council. Egan said Minnesota currently has nine silica sand mining operations, and only three new permits have been issued in the past year or so.
According to Wisconsin Watch, Wisconsin has more than 100 permitted frac sand mines or processing facilities.
Egan joined Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr, St. Charles Mayor Bill Spitzer, State Rep. Peter Fischer and Maiden Rock, Wis., resident Fred Harding on stage at the event held at White Bear Lake Unitarian Universalist Church. Former WCCO anchor Don Shelby moderated the discussion.
Egan said the few companies in Minnesota that are developing frac sand mines are local companies that are committed to a multi-year environmental review process and are willing to spend millions of dollars to meet state regulations. “There's a community interaction because that's the way the state of Minnesota has set this up,” he said.
Minnesota has new laws that prohibit silica sand mining in parts of southeastern Minnesota, and the state is working on more specific rules to protect communities and the environment.