Winona residents praise ban on sand mining

Mineral mining
A pillar showing layers of different minerals towers over a drilling machine in a silica sand mine near Maiden Rock, Minn.
Special for MPR/Alex Kolyer/Link to photo gallery

About 60 people attended a public hearing Monday on a city council's decision to approve a one-year moratorium on new silica sand mining within city limits.

Residents in Winona, Minn., applauded the council's decision to temporarily ban any new or expanded silica sand mining or processing operations within city limits.

Four other cities and five counties in southeast Minnesota have passed moratoriums on silica sand mining in recent months.

Silica sand is currently in high demand because it is used in the booming natural gas industry for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Jim Gurley of Winona wants the city to form a committee during the moratorium to study the effects of sand mining. He said the moratorium should also include the city's port, which transports sand from Wisconsin and Minnesota down the Mississippi River.

"Any kind of study during the moratorium should study all the consequences of frac sand in Winona," Gurley said. "The meetings that such a committee should hold should be open to the public. They should be completely transparent and as Councilman [Gerry] Krage suggested, residents as well as industry and staff should be members of such a committee."

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