MANKATO — When the Legislature today convenes its first hearings on the environmental impacts of silica sand mining, much of the focus will be on proposed projects in southeast Minnesota.
But about 20 Mankato-area residents plan to make the trip to St. Paul to learn more and, in one case, testify about the Jordan Sands project just north of the city.
Beth Proctor, a 3rd Avenue resident, will ask the legislators to impose a moratorium on silica sand mining while the state investigates
how these types of mines affect air, water and traffic.
She said she’s going to focus on what makes the Jordan Sands project different — its effects on drinking water.
Proctor said other mines stay above water-filled layers of rock, called aquifers. In Lime Township, by comparison, the company proposes to dig up part of the Jordan Aquifer itself, she said.
“The issue is not construction mining,” she said, referring to the area’s long tradition of rock mining. “It’s mining in our drinking water.”
Jordan Sands, a Coughlan Companies affialiate, is seeking permits to build a sand mining factory, which could employ 40 people and 30 additional subcontractors. The popularity of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” by the oil and natural gas industries has caused demand for silica sand to skyrocket.
Some nearby residents have organized to either oppose the project or seek that limitations be placed upon it. During the evening of Feb. 10, about 16 people joined Darla and Lynn Austin at their 3rd Avenue home to talk strategy.
The next day, the group mailed about 400 letters to township residents asking them to contact their legislators.
Though they believe the microscopic sand particles would be harmful, they are focusing on the impacts to water during today’s legislative hearing.
Proctor, a Minnesota State University professor, appears to have the most thorough technical understanding of the proposed mine among the residents, though none are experts in sand mining.