Last night, the Goodhue County board unanimously voted for a one-year moratorium on silica sand mining, the Red Wing Republican Eage reports in Silica sand mine moratorium unanimously approved:
Goodhue County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a moratorium preventing the issuance of any conditional use permits for silica sand mine operations in the county for up to a year.
Citizen group Save the Bluffs has been working toward getting the moratorium in place for months, and received letters of support from the cities of Red Wing and Lake City, as well as Florence, Hay Creek and Featherstone townships. . . .
The Star Tribune has more in Goodhue County to take a second look at sand mining:
Silica sand has become a valuable commodity in recent years because it is crucial to an oil- and gas-extraction technology called hydrofracking, which is transforming the domestic U.S. energy business.
Sand mining, however, has aroused local controversy in recent months as Red Wing-area residents organized around an effort for the moratorium. "We were elated and relieved" the board approved it, said Jody McIlrath, a member of the citizens group opposed to the mining operation."
. . . The debate in Goodhue County echoes those in small communities across Wisconsin and southern Minnesota as dozens of companies acquire land at high prices to supply drill rigs from New York to Texas.
The Star Tribune reports that mining on the Windsor Permian land in Goodhue County would be too small of a project to trigger state oversight. The local concerns that led to last night's decision:
Opponents say the county shouldn't permit a mining facility near residential communities. They fear damage to local streams and groundwater, and they say the open pit mine will be a blight on Red Wing's beautiful rolling landscape. They are also concerned about potential health effects. Dust from silica sand can cause a number of lung diseases, including cancer.
Nationally, the fracking process, rather than mining the sand itself, has gotten the lion's share of attention:
The hydrofracking process blasts a mixture of sand, water and chemicals into wells, creating fissures in the rock and freeing hard-to-reach pockets of oil and natural gas. Hydrofracking has raised major environmental questions and is under review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Wisconsin and Minnesota are among the few places in the country that can provide the perfectly round, inert silica sand used in the process; it comes from the 500-million-year-old Jordan sandstone formation that lies close to the surface in parts of both states.
Minnesota Public Radio reports in Goodhue County officials say time needed to study fracture mining:
A proposal for a one-year moratorium on fracture mining, often called fracking, was popular at a meeting Tuesday evening in Red Wing.
About 200 people filled the public hearing room for a meeting that lasted nearly three hours and included public comments from 20 people in support of the moratorium. No one spoke in opposition. . .
For Goodhue residents like Keith Fossen, the moratorium is a victory. Fossen lives near the property purchased by Windsor Permian and said he wants county commissioners to take their time to study the potential impacts of fracture mining, including water pollution and damages to bluffs and roads.
"The work has just begun," Fossen said. "Are we going to permit that kind of industrial mining in our county?
"If the answer is no, then how do we do that correctly? If the answer is yes, then how do we control it? How do we not let it impact the quality of our lives?"
Fossen, who lives 100 yards from the proposed site, took part in a Rochester Post Bulletin community dialogue on mining last week. Read about it here.
Photo: Aerial view of the potential site in Rock Creek Township, Goodhue County.
Note: The current iteration of this post reflects the correct spelling of Keith Fossen's name. He is incorrectly identified as "Keith Fossum" in PB's reporting.