Commentary: Debate frac sand mining using factsOver the past several months there has been considerable talk about the proposed sand mine in Hay Creek Township. Three letters in the edition of the Red Wing Republican Eagle have prompted me to put in my 2 cents worth.
By: By John Litsenberger, Red Wing, The Republican Eagle
Over the past several months there has been considerable talk about the proposed sand mine in Hay Creek Township. Three letters in the edition of the Red Wing Republican Eagle have prompted me to put in my 2 cents worth.
First, I would like to address the letter by Dr. Karen DeLuca.
I was extremely disappointed to find it was written by a medical doctor. While it is true that silica sand has the potential to cause silicosis, it is not a given for this disease to occur.
Silica is the earth’s most abundant mineral. It is found everywhere and most dust contains silica in some amount. Further, to develop silicosis, one will be exposed to silica dust over an extended period of time.
And this is where I found DeLuca’s letter so disappointing. This letter is spreading fear much more than it is spreading facts. And the community will do itself no good by approaching this issue with fear; it needs facts and knowledge.
The mining industry is tightly regulated by the Mine Safety and Health Administration. This organization regularly visits mines throughout the nation and one of their duties is to monitor the exposure of employees to dust, particularly silica dust.
This is done through personal monitoring of selected employees and when an over exposure is identified MSHA will enforce a cleanup and elimination of the problem and/or dust source.
What dust does leave the property (fugitive dust) is not a health threat to the community as it has lost the concentration to do damage.
That is not to say it is not a nuisance and that it does not need to be controlled or eliminated. It does.
I also take issue with the statement that “The water table will be disrupted and polluted.”
Disruption of the water table could occur depending upon the elevation of the water table with respect to the sand horizon to be mined. But to make a claim it will be polluted is again spreading fear and not facts.
Because mining occurs the water table does not become polluted. Today’s mines are regulated by numerous state and federal agencies to ensure that water and air pollution do not happen. Further, silica is a non-pollutant and is often used to purify water.
The processing of silica sand into frac sand does require great quantities of water and, when done correctly, this water can be returned to the environment as clean as when it was taken out.
Just as with any new industry, there are pros and cons. It is the community’s responsibility to approach these issues with knowledge.
While people have a right to be concerned, they also have an obligation to be informed and knowledgeable of the subject matter. To go about spreading half truths and fear does not do the community a service.
If you want to be responsible, learn about mining and, as a community, set parameters you expect this company to meet. By doing this, you will be able to meet with the company and express what you, as a community, expect from them in running a mine/processing plant that all can live with.
This can be a win/win situation — don’t turn it into a lose/lose issue.
I have over 40 years of underground mining experience and have worked in the frac sand industry, so I do know what mining companies are capable of achieving. I also know that an uninformed public is one that deals with hysteria rather than facts.
Sand mining is, perhaps, the least disruptive to the environment of any mining. There is no milling or smelting involved, no acidic effluents to be concerned about, and no adverse exhausts to linger in the air.
My advice to the area’s citizens is to learn about the frac sand industry, talk to Windsor Permian and listen to their ideas and goals, but become informed and be prepared to present this company with your list of how you expect them to operate in your neighborhood.