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Mining operation booming

MAIDEN ROCK -- A mining operation in southern Pierce County is exploding and it's not a destructive blast, but a developmental boom.

Fairmount Minerals‚ Wisconsin Industrial Sand Co. since the middle of this decade, has added two new locations in addition to its main site.

"In the past 12-to-24 months, we've gone from this facility to a plant in Hager City and mining out of Bay City," Regional Manager Tim Stauffer said, adding the company has built a plant in Menomonie, Wis.

Demand for the sand the firm mines, used by the oil industry, has rapidly increased in recent years, Stauffer said.

Eight years ago, the local operation produced 100,000 tons annually. Since then the operation's output has grown more than 500 percent.

"We exceeded the 600,000-ton mark last year," he said. "We'll probably come close to that this year."

The frac sand and silica sand found in Fairmount's mines here are needed for oil and gas well development, he said. It's pumped down through the fracture rock and blown in, a porous means to get to the wellhead.

The particular kind of sand available in this area is very pure and has high tensile strength.

"So it stands up well under compression," he said.

Industry officials rate sand according to its purity, the manager explained. The more impurities there are, the lower the percentage rating.

The sand mined by the firm in the southern part of the county is rated at 98 percent, an indication of why it's in demand.

Meanwhile, the glass industry also has an appetite for the sand, Stauffer said, adding the Menomonie site supplies sand to the Cardinal Glass factory in Menomonie.

Because oil fields aren't linear, it serves to infiltrate the rolling terrain. A lot of the sand Fairmount ships from Southern Pierce goes to Texas, though Colorado, Canada and even Mexico are getting to be common destinations as well.