RED WING, Minn. (AP) — An official with an oil exploration company that wanted to mine a special kind of sand in southeastern Minnesota expressed disappointment Wednesday about a vote by a county board for a one-year moratorium while it studies the potential environmental, health and financial impacts.

People filled a public hearing room in Red Wing for a meeting Tuesday night that lasted nearly three hours and included public comments from 20 people in support of the moratorium. No one spoke in opposition to the temporary ban, which Goodhue County Commissioner Jim Bryant said will give officials time to assemble an advisory board to study the impact.

“Is this really a good fit for us here?” Bryant said. “Maybe for some. Maybe in some areas but maybe not in other areas.”

Goodhue County is among several places in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan with deposits of “frac” sand, round grains of silica sand prized by the energy exploration industry, which uses it to extract fuel from underground rock in a process called hydraulic fracturing. Drillers pump a mix of water, sand and chemicals into rock formations to expand and weaken the natural fractures to unlock oil and gas. The process is transforming the domestic U.S. energy business.

The sand from sandstone formations along the Mississippi River between Minnesota and Wisconsin has an ideal combination of grain size, strength to resist crushing pressures, purity and chemical inertness. Several companies are already mining in the region.

One company that would like to start is Windsor Energy Resources Inc., based in Oklahoma City, which is exploring for oil in the Permian Basin of west Texas. Its Windsor Permian subsidiary last year paid $2.6 million for 155 acres of woods, cornfields and bluffs two miles south of Red Wing near a small housing development and a protected trout stream in hopes of mining it for silica sand.

“We’re disappointed that the county board decided to impose a moratorium but we intend to comply with all the regulations that exist in Goodhue County for the future work that we do,” Chip Krohn, a geologist with the company, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. He said the company believes the county’s existing regulations are “more than sufficient” for the board to decide whether to approve or reject permits.

Krohn said Windsor is trying to find its own sources of frac sand because it’s a small, independent company that has had trouble at times securing an uninterrupted supply.

“Until we secure our own sources we’ll continue to purchase sand from third-party providers on the open market,” he said.

The debate in Goodhue County echoes those in small communities across western Wisconsin and southern Minnesota as dozens of companies acquire land to supply drill rigs from New York to Texas. Earlier this month Wabasha County passed its own moratorium on sand mining, even though no project is planned there.

Jody McIlrath, a member of a citizens’ group opposed to sand mining, was elated with the Goodhue County Board’s decision.

“There’s such a laundry list of issues that have to be studied and researched in terms of health and environment,” McIlrath said. “The county will go through an extensive study of the impact that silica mining would have on natural resources and health issues and road and transportation concerns.”

Keith Fossen, who lives near Windsor’s property, said he wants more information on the impact of fracture drilling, which has drawn sharp criticism in several areas where it’s practiced.

“The work has just begun,” Fossen said. “Are we going to permit that kind of industrial mining in our county? If the answer is no, then how do we do that correctly? If the answer is yes, then how do we control it? How do we not let it impact the quality of our lives?”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (17)
  1. Rom says:

    He is correct. As a Goodhue county resident I support the effort. The current mining Ordinance is solid. (it’s om-line if you want to read it) Mining has been going on in Goodhue County for over 100 years, from clay to aggregate. This is nothing more than NIMBY!

    1. Romsux says:

      Frac mining destroys the water, and everything else in the area. Proven. Oil sux, go green

      1. w says:

        spoken like a true obama zombie

        1. Jim says:

          Spoken like someone who loves the planet he lives on. Seems smart to me. Republicans would destroy the environment to create a few jobs. No thanks.

          1. xy says:

            Then you are on board with stopping all ethanol plants. Want to talk about depleting the water quality, talk to anyone with a well within 20 miles of a plant.

            Great to hear you tree huggers are equally applying you bias.

  2. Sierra Club BS says:

    The mining company should have said it was for light rail or bicycle paths.
    Once again the Sierra club stopping progress. I wonder how may jobs that cost and what the cost was to the community in lost business.

  3. truth hurts says:

    Chemicals are blasted into water wells, creating fissures in the rock and freeing hard-to-reach pockets of oil and natural gas including crystalline silica which a dusty substance known to cause health problems including cancer and silicosis and potentially fatal lung disease.

    I got a drink of water from you…it’s not been checked by EPA for potential health effects. Wanna have some Mr. BS

  4. Jim says:

    “…a one-year moratorium while it studies the potential environmental, health and financial impacts.”

    Who could argue with this? Only the most hardcore Republican or someone who truly hates the environment would support this kind of mining without considering the consequences first. Maybe in a year they’ll decide mining is a good idea. Better safe than sorry.

  5. what!?! says:

    WOW!.. Tons of proof out there on the negative effects of frac mining.. frac is not your friend.. So let me ask you this.. How many jobs is a human life worth? What is the ratio that is acceptable by some of you simpletons? 10 to 1, 20 to 1.. What is it? And save the ” you lib” blah blah blah talk and come up with something original. Wait .. that would require thinking.. Please Excuse me. It is a proven fact that frac mining is dangerous.. Find another way!

    1. jan says:

      I’m not a liberal and I totallyagree with you

    2. Randy says:

      This is the same material your children play with in their sandbox. We are an oil based economy now and for the forseeable future. Energy independence is the most important issue facing our country. It protects our country and employees hundresd of thousands of Americans. Oil recovery in the U.S, reduces our dependence on oil imports from hostial countries and reduces our need to send young Americans into harms way. This moritorium is ignorant and anti America.

      1. just me says:

        this is not the same sand that the kids play with. now who is to pay for our roads? as it will take 100’s of truck a day to take it to a shipping point, who will pay for our water supply??? and how can I sell my house? who is to clean up the mess they leave behind???? these are some of the questions that have to be answered. what about the river???

  6. leroy says:

    All of you libs and sierra club members using oxygen is a health hazard,

    please stop breathing…

    1. jack noff says:

      leroy is gay

  7. That's right! says:

    I read a story just the other day where hundreds of Illinois Democrat union members mobbed a toll road commission meeting to support higher tolls on Illinois toll roads to create union jobs maintaining them. Now if there isn’t any oil to power the cars running down those roads, how are they going to tax the average guy trying to get to work? I guess our liberal friends don’t think very far ahead. The fact is that oil companies create real jobs, democrats only create parasitic jobs that sap the economy. Everyone that arrived at a meeting to condemn oil exploration that drove a car is a hypocrit.

    1. Really says:

      So what I read from you is that you don’t like unions (and this is an opportunity for you to slam on them, even though they are the only thing keeping greedy employers from paying you slave wages) and you don’t care about the environment as long as it creates a job.

      Your statement is a stretch. Considering there is a glut of oil sitting in tankers offshore the US, your claim of no oil in the future is BS. Speculators and oil companies manipulate the supply to drive up costs. This is keeping gas prices artificially high.

      Instead of pointing your miss-guided anger where Faux news tells you to, push for oversight on wall street to force them to price oil on supply and demand. This will lower gas prices significantly, provide the middle class more spending power, and create more demand (and jobs) than mining sand for the oil industry will.

  8. HalfNorsk says:

    Opponents of fracking for oil and gas have been artfully duped. Fracking is, in general, done very responsibly, and it results in providing fuels that our economy desperately needs. Unless you want to live as the Amish, please stop your ignorant objections to a proven, efficient, and environmentally responsible technology.

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