Why is there a problem with Sand-Mining?

Is there any reason for concern about the commercial  mining of silica- sand in Wisconsin's Driftless Area? What is there to learn about? What benefits do the mines provide towns, farmers, owners of mineral rights? is there anything citizens can do if they are not happy about the sand mines in Wisconsin?  

A:

The sand in Wisconsin's Driftless Area s incredible! Almost nowhere else on the planet does such sand exist, nor does it exist in such great amounts, so near huge hubs of transportation to the places it is needed. The oil fields! (not in Wisconsin!) in the oil-shale rich regions of our nation!  If, after we learn about frac-sand mining in Wisconsin, we decide on an appropriate action, there is plenty we can do together. 

Here is a brief idea what is happening to cause the problems related to Frac-Sand mining.   Beware-- not all sand mining is created equal!  The sand mining we are studying is very different from old style sand and gravel pits. This is special sand. These are giant mines and HUGE processing plants! There are billions of tons of sand, and the oil companies want it all. 

A few decades ago,  it used to be unprofitable to go after oil and gas trapped in America's shale rock because the technology was weaker and the price of oil and gas was too low to make the extraction uneconomical. However, as the price of oil and natural gas rose, the mantra became "America must become energy independent." And the technology of drilling sideways through shale became easier - and the fracking boom was on!

Our sand, water,  and a special mix of chemicals make a mix that is forced into the gas or oil bearing rock with hundreds of thousands of pounds per square inch of massive water pressure to crack or "fracture" the rock - sometimes they actually blast a well before pumping it full of the mixture, just to be sure the rock is really fracked good! Our frac-sands work to hold cracks in the rock open so that oil or gas seeps out where it can be pumped. 

Frac-sand is just the right size, shape and hardness to do the job. Almost our whole state scenic Driftless Area is layered with it. The layers - actually sandstone - are what form the lovely hills and bluffs. The sand sits just under the farm soil farmers have depended on for generations.    

Wisconsin has lots and lots this sand! Towns had no protective ordinances about operation of sand mines of this size.Imagine how you would feel, as a farmer if  a 300 acre sand mine suddenly opening 50 feet from your home and farm!  No regulations! This has happened in Wisconsin over and over! 

Our problem is the sand is close to the surface of our land, often in big layers in our beautiful wooded hills in farm country. In some parts of western Wisconsin, there is very little "overburden" over the desirable sandstone. The miners really like that. Sometimes the process of removing the sandstone may require 24/7 blasting and excavating the lovely hills, miles of them all over about 66% of Wisconsin's most lovely landscape.

When the sandstone is is processed, it is crushed, sifted, sorted and coated with chemicals. The chemically toxic residue & water is then stored in holding tanks on the processing plant property that may or may not be the same place as the mine.  The little towns where mines have set up quickly were not prepared to protect themselves from the effects of the noise, sand dust (silica fragments floating in air), run-off water laced with toxic chemicals, holding tanks for waste water overflowing into watersheds,  sudden vast water-usage, or a Department of Natural Resources with only 2 examiners to check on over 120 mines, processing and distribution sites spread out all over the state, and a governor who is not concerned with environmental protection, only with protection of businesses.

There is a lot more information. This is just a start. Please look at the articles and follow the links on this topic. We will also have videos where you can see what the folks who are affected by the mines already operating have to say about their situation & experiences.  The problems can be dealt with.  Yes, this type of sand-mining is not healthy, but find out for yourself. Time is running out for the beautiful hills and farms of Wisconsin's Driftless.  We must be willing to try to help both landowners and land. We can learn what is needed to correct the problems and respect one another.

 

  Please see the links we provide to help you learn more!  SAND-MINING.   


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