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Goodhue Co. extends frac sand moratorium

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Goodhue County commissioners voted today to extend the county's moratorium on frac sand mining by 180 days when the current ban expires next month.

The vote comes following a $73,000 study on silica sand mining and the county's policy options. 

The committee that completed the study recommended against extending the county's ban, but two of the county board's five commissioners have expressed concerns over silica sand mining. In June, commissioners approved an ordinance that would allow limited frac sand mining, and those rules could take effect when the moratorium expires.

The state Legislature this spring made it possible for local governments to extend their mining bans. Some Goodhue County residents have said more studies are needed to assess the affect of mining on roads, safety and quality of life.

The Minnesota Environmental Quality Board is developing standards for mining, processing, and transporting silica sand that will be ready this fall. The Minnesota Department of Health expects to release air quality standards for silica by January.

Even with no moratorium, Goodhue County and other silica sand-rich areas of southeastern Minnesota might not see immediate mining activity, because demand for the sand used for hydraulic fracturing has slowed in recent months.