Last summer, Bluestem was critical of the Star Tribune's unrelentingly boosterish reporting of what it dubbed "the new gold rush" of frac sand mining in southeastern Minnesota's bluff country. For many residents of the area, comparing the move to strip the bluffs and fields of green, dig up and process silica sand, then haul it away to distant shale oil and gas fields to a "gold rush" isn't a strong analogy.
It's not a gold rush. It's fool's gold.
It's fricking Mordor.
But the paper isn't about to let go of the narrative it tried putting into place. From the lede of Wis. sand-mine spills cause call for penalties against Minn. firms:
Wisconsin regulators are seeking civil penalties against Minnesota-based mine operators for two large sand spills, a first taste of the kind of environmental risks that accompany the gold rush of frac sand mining underway in both states.
One would think that the video work by filmmaker Jim Tittle on The Price of Sand would have been the first taste of the environmental risks. Apparently not in the Strib's own Amyworld of reporting.
And the objections of those pesky citizens? Buried five paragraphs down:
At the same time, the new operations have spawned a wave of protest and moratoriums in dozens of counties, cities and townships in southeast Minnesota.
Instead, the article paints a rosy picture of a corporations diligently discovering
the lessons emerging as a fledgling industry learns how to safely construct massive mine pits and measure the possible damage that could be inflicted on water, wildlife and the landscape.
Buried even deeper in the story? The fact that the companies and government monitoring is so lax that the spills were discovered by citizens, one by chance by a hiker, the second when a stream of sand poured into a home and garage:
Patricia Popple, a member of the Save the Hills Alliance in Chippewa Falls, Wis., said she was concerned that in both cases the spills were reported by citizens, not the companies.
This Pollyanna-ish attitude toward industrial-scale frac sand mining isn't confined to the news desk at the Star Tribune. Rather, it's shared by the new head of the MPCA, who goes even farther to define frac sand mining as no different than any old gravel pit.
Lovely. These aren't your daddy's gravel pits.
Photo: Close-up of silica sand. From the Price of Sand.