Sand Mining Discussion in Mahtomedi Draws Hundreds

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By: Tim Sherno

The League of Women Voters hosted a discussion panel on the topic of silica sand mining at the White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church in Mahtomedi Tuesday night.

Silica sand is used in fracture oil extraction, the process requires a specific type of sand. There is currently one operating sand mine in Washington County.

Dennis Egan works for the Industrial Sand Mining Council, a organization of sand mine operators, he says starting up a mining operation requires a lost list of government permits and regulations, “It’s not as easy as saying here’s 20 acres here’s 40 acres we think would be prime opportunity to mine, and let’s go do it.”

According to Egan, the application for a sand mining operation can take from 18 months to 3 years, and requires extensive public input. And, Egan says, silica sand operations bring jobs, “These are good paying jobs, that’s a component, these are 60 to 70 thousand dollar a year jobs.”

Peter Fischer represents district 43A. Representative Fischer says any sand mining must weight both potential jobs and environmental protection, “That’s one of the difficult balances, because we always have to want to make sure we have great jobs coming in that are taking care of the economy, but i also know that we have to keep an eye on the safety concerns. when we haven’t done that in the past, it’s haunted us.”

That’s something Jim Drost from Mahtomedi says he knows all too well.

Drost says he used to support sand mining but says he changed his mind when a local mine’s water waste contaminated his family’s property in Wisconsin. Now Drost is worried sand mining could expand in Washington county where he now lives.

Drost says he pushing back, “To keep them from doing the same thing here in Minnesota.”