The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

January 9, 2013

Blue Earth County considers mining tax to help repair roads

Proposal would charge producers and importers of small rocks 15 cents a ton

MANKATO — Blue Earth County is considering a tax on gravel and sand mining to help repair its roads, which wear and tear under rock-hauling trucks.

The measure, discussed for the first time by the County Board this week, would charge mining companies 15 cents for each ton of rock they mine from or import into Blue Earth County.

The board didn’t endorse the measure, but enough commissioners were interested to send it to a future work session for more discussion.

This type of rock, called “aggregate,” is used for a wide variety of construction purposes. Twenty-eight of the state’s 38 counties with aggregate resources collect the tax, according to a list included in state statute.

How much money it would generate in Blue Earth County is unclear because companies don’t currently disclose how much rock they mine. But an example to illustrate its scale can be drawn from nearby Sibley County.

That county, which has roughly one-fourth the population of Blue Earth County, collects about $95,000 in a year from the tax. Of that, about $40,000 goes to the county, $40,000 to townships and $15,000 goes to a fund that will pay for the reclamation of the county’s mines and quarries.

 It’s hard to say how much more rock is taken from this county, but Blue Earth County Public Works Director Al Forsberg gave a rough estimate of $300,000 per year in tax revenues.

Darin Mielke, public works director in Sibley County, said the county used to spend its allocation on countywide maintenance, but about five years ago started directing the revenues into a dedicated fund to improve a road near a gravel pit.

The county’s three aggregate-mining companies don’t have a problem paying the tax, he said.

“Even though they’re paying it, they’re benefiting as well,” he said.

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