Mankato approves sand mine

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It was a rare packed house Wednesday night at a meeting of the Mankato Planning Commission, as the panel prepared to give a final green light to a proposed silica sand mining and processing operation, the Mankato Free Press reported.

In the end, the commission OK'd a conditional use permit for Jordan Sands, an affiliate of Coughlan Companies, which aims to mine 70 acres and use another 40 acres for processing the sand, the newspaper reports. The site lies just north of the city limits.

The project is still subject to final clearances from state agencies, including the Department of Natural Resources, the newspaper reports.

The action came amid a growing debate over the mining of silica sand, used in the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The process, which allows for the mining of hard-to-reach gas and oil, is controversial. Critics say the effects of the sand mining on human health and the environment are unknown. One key Wisconsin county in the frac sand debate has banned new operations for a year.

But proponents say it creates jobs – and ultimately increases U.S. energy resources.

Several opponents of the Mankato project spoke Wednesday, including Sarah Richards, co-owner of Jones Metal Products, the newspaper reports. She said she hopes Coughlin Companies will address any air quality, blasting damage or traffic issues that arise.

The state of Minnesota recently unveiled a new frac sand mining website. Here's more info about the debate collected by MPR, and a number of recent stories. Propublica put together an infographic on how fracking is done.

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