Fractures are deep in sand mining debate

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Opponents of the fast-growing sand mining industry in Minnesota jammed into a hearing room at the Capitol on Tuesday as lawmakers begin to debate the state's role in regulating the industry, MPR reports.

Critics of the mining are prodding state lawmakers for new rules. Dozens at the hearing called for a halt on new operations until the effects of the mines on human health and the environment can be further studied, the Pioneer Press reported.

"We do not want industrial-scale frack sand mining to happen in Minnesota like it's happened in Wisconsin," said Bobby King, with the Land Stewardship Project, the newspaper reported. "It's destroyed people's quality of life, their rural communities, their air and their water, their farms."

But industry officials say new regulations will amount to unnecessary new burdens that will curb job growth.

Sand mining companies argue that they are good citizens that boost communities, and they say local governments are best suited to make decisions about the practice, Forum Communications reports.

“This type of mining has been working successfully in Minnesota for decades and decades,” mining geologist Kirsten Pauly told lawmakers, Forum reported.

Sand mining is growing because the sand is valuable in the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is increasingly used to extract oil and natural gas from deep below the surface.

As companies have sought permits for new sand mining operations in southeastern Minnesota, local officials have struggled with various issues at stake, including the health and environmental effects.

As MPR notes, some communities have approved permits, while others have imposed moratoriums.

Local officials now hope that state lawmakers will take a lead in setting regulations.

For a glimpse at the action, The Uptake has video highlights from the hearing.

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