Mine opponents commandeer geologist
By Emily Bialkowski
Minnesota Sands held a public informational session Aug. 28 to address mounting concerns over sand mining in Houston County and their project on the Erickson property.
Less than an hour into the presentation, public outcry grew in momentum and some even stomped out of the room.
Leading discussion was geologist and consultant John Dustman, who attempted to address several points. He talked about noise, top soil, dust, equipment, blasting, ground water and what will it look like after mining is complete.
“At the end of the day I think this resource will be harvested, and I think it can be done sustainabley and in an environmentally sensitive way,” Dustman said.
Houston County has become a hot spot for sand mining because the land has sandstone deposits close to the surface that have the qualities sought by oil and gas companies.
Dustman said the dust people express concerns over will be limited to what is churned on roads transporting the product and that blasting – called “bumping” in this instance – will be limited to just twice a month if at all.
The geologist presented computer generated images of the mine site and diagrams of their reclamation plan.
“We’re not taking down any hills,” he said and also mentioned using water and air quality monitors.
“Usually a project is no more than 10 acres,” he said, adding that mining takes place a section at a time with reclamation occurring as crews go.
“We feel like we’ve followed all the rules and gone above and beyond,” said Minnesota Sands spokesperson Jennifer Dessner in a follow-up interview.
“Our intent is simply to create a legitimate business with the resources that are available here,” Dessner added.
The audience remained still until Dustman opened the floor for questions, during which time the atmosphere grew thick with tension.
From U.S. dependence on fossil fuels to esthetic disruption, concerns varied.
“Why is it OK for one man to profit at my expense,” yelled one man.
“I’m not here to speak to that. I’m a geologist,” Dustman said.
Many of the questions were not geologic in nature, and Dustman
became a sounding board for a variety of points.
“You’ve commandeered our elected officials,” one lady insisted.
Both sides have mounted public relations campaigns.
For information from the Houston County Protectors visit www.sandpointtimes.com.
For information from Minnesota Sands visit mnproppant.com.