Mining committee provides more answersA handful of local residents tossed out a few questions Monday night at an informational meeting organized by the Goodhue County Mining Study Committee.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
A handful of local residents tossed out a few questions Monday night at an informational meeting organized by the Goodhue County Mining Study Committee.
The meeting, which was held at Cannon Falls High School, was intended to provide the public with updates on what the committee has been accomplishing as far as studying the effects of silica sand, yet fewer than a dozen civilians attended.
“It’s kind of disappointing,” committee member John Hobert said.
Still, those who were in attendance came prepared to gather more information and did so by asking questions.
“What towns that do mining have you come across that are also tourism towns?” Hay Creek resident Amy Nelson asked the six mining committee members who were present.
While Goodhue County Land-use Management Director Lisa Hanni said the committee hasn’t come across current mines interacting with tourism, committee member and mining expert John Litsenberger pointed out that there is a significant connection between the two.
“There’s a lot of tourism tied in with the mining industry or the former mining industry in some cases. They can exist together,” Litsenberger said. “Look at the range up north.”
“Those aren’t right in town,” Nelson argued.
Litsenberger pushed back, arguing that the potential Hay Creek mine isn’t in town either.
“You’re not talking about a mine in Red Wing. You’re talking about a mine in Goodhue County,” he said.
While Nelson’s question focused on social and economic impacts, others at the meeting showed concern for different issues. Frontenac resident Jody McIlrath addressed transportation and asked whether the county was aware of a situation going on in the city of Red Wing.
Starting in about one month, approximately 75 trucks of silica sand from Wisconsin mines are expected to be unloaded into barges at Red Wing’s Little River bulkhead each day. The Red Wing Port Authority owns the bulkhead but contracts the operation out, giving the port no jurisdiction over the matter despite worries from local residents. The county also has no say.
“We were aware of that (situation), but it doesn’t fall under the county’s moratorium,” Goodhue County Planning Director Mike Wozniak answered McIlrath. “It’s the use of state highways.”
Before taking questions from citizens, county staff and the mining committee used Monday’s meeting as a way to fill people in on their progress thus far.
Since October 2011, the group has visited an open pit mine in Menomonie, Wis., heard presentations from experts, gathered information on everything from property value impacts to adverse health effects and discussed possible changes to the county’s current ordinance.
The mining committee is also looking to recently hired expert team Summit Envirosolutions to find more answers.
Summit will inform the committee on a number of different things, including best practices for dealing with noise, blasting and washing at a mine, typical transportation needs of a mining operation and the types of chemicals used in processing silica sand. It will also document existing mines and compare and contrast them with silica sand operations. Lastly, Summit will describe land reclamation plans and costs.
The clock is ticking, and the September 2012 expiration date of the county’s moratorium is getting closer, but staff maintains a positive outlook.
“We’re still hoping to be done by the end of our moratorium,” Hanni said.