Environmental board: Mining reps oppose impact study, citing delays

Silica sand
A front-end loader fills rail cars with silica sand at Modern Transport Rail loading terminal in Winona, Minn on Feb. 13, 2012.
AP Photo/The Winona Daily News, Andrew Link

Minnesota's top environmental agency today heard from business leaders who oppose a proposal for a broad environmental impact study on silica sand mining in Minnesota.

The silica sand mining industry is generally opposed to idea of a large-scale study. Representatives say local governments would be likely to postpone approval of projects while they await the results.

The study would not hold up any projects but the industry is moving so fast it might take too long to be useful, said Bob Patton, executive director of the Environmental Quality Board.

"It could provide additional good information but whether it will be timely for the decisions that are being made by local governments mostly," Patton said.

Silica sand is used in the oil and gas industry, in a process known as hydraulic fracturing. An industry attorney says there are 13 mine proposals pending in Minnesota.

"They're looking at Wisconsin, development has been rapid there. There's a lot of interest here as you heard today, so we expect that's going to continue," Patton said.

Patton says the study would not impose a moratorium on mining, but the industry worries that local governments wouldn't approve projects until it was completed.

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