Let’s get honest about frac sand mining

To the Editor:

After observing the Houston County Study Group for well over 20 hours I can not recall a single time when anyone from our Planning and Zoning Board, county engineer, “industry consultant/spokesperson for sand and gravel industry” has advanced a single argument in favor of restricting or regulating mining or protecting the health and safety of county residents. There have been literally hundreds of arguments from the same people to weaken regulations and ordinances controlling mining. If they tell you they are interested in a balanced approach they simply are not being honest.

While we are at it let’s get honest about something else, there will be no small scale mines. Corporations like Exxon and Haliburton that are the end users do not spend millions on infrastructure to deal with small time operators that would deliver 10 or 20 truck loads per day. They also will not stop with one or two bluffs. Look at what is happening in Wisconsin and stop that magical thinking. This is about the corporate bottom line not the good of our community.

It also needs to be said clearly that no one is attempting to change how sand and gravel is regulated for local construction and road projects. No one is attempting to regulate agriculture or any other industry; this is about industrial scale mining only. That talk is an attempt to mislead and confuse the issue.

Now is your only chance to attempt to control mining in this area. Once an operation is opened and running it will be nearly impossible to shut down – it will be grandfathered in prior to regulation and immune from future regulations. The ground work and ordinances are being done now and they are counting on your apathy.

One should also examine the motives and conflicts of interest of the parties involved. Who is motivated by self gain and who is working for the common good and protection of the commons? Who is considering the well being of future generations?

In the end this sand is used for fracking, a very polluting process that continues our reliance on fossil fuels and delays our transition to renewable cleaner energy. It also increases the impact of the climate crisis. While it is true that burning natural gas emits less carbon dioxide than coal, the total climate impact is approximately the same because of the methane that escapes during the fracking and recovery process.

Would be miners are fond of the land rights argument: “It is my land so I can do whatever I want with it.” That of course ignores the land rights of their neighbors who should have a right to enjoy their property and be able to maintain their properties’ value. It is like arguing that they are my hands so I can do whatever I want with them. That right ends when it harms another person, consider the hands that built the bombs at the Boston Marathon. What about the rights of the surrounding community to have clean air and water, quality of life, peaceful neighborhoods and scenic beauty.


Bryan Van Gorp

Rushford, MN