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More county regulators joining sand mining industry; leaving work backlogs, expertise shortages

More western Wisconsin counties are seeing their land use experts leave to take jobs with the sand mining industry. Mining companies are offering top dollar to the local experts who are familiar with the land, regulations, and people. The trend has raised concerns about the ability of local governments to regulate the boom in the mining of frac sand.
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More county land use managers in western Wisconsin are leaving the public sector to join the sand mining companies they've been regulating. Mining companies are willing to pay a premium to gain the services of those who are most familiar with the land and local regulations. But the loss of those regulators leaves counties without their top experts when it comes to managing the boom in mining silica sand, or frac sand.

Counties, cities, and townships in southeastern Minnesota have been weighing the environmental risks against the economic benefits of the sand boom. Some have stopped issuing mining permits to allow more study of the environmental impact. A court order that would stop a sand mining operation in Houston County is pending in court.

Meanwhile, mining companies are eyeing frac sand deposits farther south in Iowa. But they're running into some opposition from neighbors there.

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Winona County passes 3-month moratorium on silica sand mining

County commissioners in Winona are among the latest officials in southeast Minnesota to hit the pause button on frac sand mining while they study possible environmental and public health effects.

Winona County expected to vote on frac sand mining moratorium Tuesday

Several silica sand mining projects are planned or proposed in Winona County. But some residents want to slow things down to let the county consider stricter regulations to guard against environmental and health risks.

Two more southeast Minnesota counties approve silica sand mining moratoriums

The Rochester Post Bulletin reports both the Houston and Fillmore County Boards passed resolutions earlier this week. Goodhue, Wabasha and Winona are also among the list of counties, cities and townships concerned with the proliferation of silica sand mines.

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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.

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The energy industry is anxious to use southeastern Minnesota sands to help release petroleum deposits that conventional drilling can't reach. They've likened the mining of that sand to a gold rush. But activists concerned about the environmental effects of the sand mines want to allow time for more studies.