The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Business

April 21, 2014

Digging In

Coughlans ready to mine silica sand

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The Oneota Dolomite Formation near Mankato has historically been a source for cutting and extracting limestone blocks for building stones. Immediately below the Oneota Dolomite Formation lies the Jordan Sandstone Formation, a Cambrian Age sand deposit.

There are several formations of sand deposits in the state, including the Jordan, Wonewoc, Mount Simon and St. Peter formations. The Wonewoc and Wisconsin deposits contain more clay but are easier to extract as they’re closer to the ground.

The Jordan Sands Co. will be mining from the Jordan deposit.

Coughlan said that up to a quarter of their business will be supplying sand for making glass bottles. “This is a nice clean, clear silica that doesn’t have a lot of iron deposits. It makes it nice for clear glass.”

Jordan Sands will be extracting a half-million tons of sand a year, shipping most of it to Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado. Everything will be delivered by rail.

The company is permitted for about 15 years of mining, but there are extensive silica deposits beyond what will be used in that time period.

Long before “hydraulic fracking” became a common term, silica was, and still is, used in a variety of applications.

“Silica is used in a lot of places. We’ll be developing other markets. Foundries like Dotson and others all over the country use it. It’s used in construction, it’s used in shingles,” Sustacek said. The sand is even used in golf course sand traps.

A long battle

When the initial plans for Jordan Sands were introduced for review and approval in Lime Township, just north of Mankato, a fierce statewide debate was under way about new silica operations planned in Minnesota, mostly among the bluffs of southeastern Minnesota.

Countless meetings, petitions, environmental reviews, letters to the editor and public hearings ensued before all of the permits were approved to allow Jordan Sands to move ahead.

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