unimin plant

A Covia silica sand pit. The company announced it has closed the Kasota plant due to changing market demands. It is still operating in the Ottawa mine, which is shown here.

The Covia silica sand mining operation at Kasota is permanently closed, leaving county officials uncertain of the future of the thousands of acres the company owns.

“This decision was based partly on shifts in customer demand, but also as part of our ongoing efforts to maintain our position as a low-cost leader in the market,” Dave Reavis, director of corporate communications, said in a statement.

“We are committed to helping employees through this transition, including via outplacement services. We are well-positioned for future growth, and remain focused on helping our customers succeed.”

More than 60 employees were let go, according to a county official.

Le Sueur County Administrator Darrell Pettis said the plant closing leaves many things up in the air.

“There’s a lot of questions out there. We have a lot of conditional-use permits out for the mining activities and for the plant operations. So we have a lot of unknowns.” He said Covia had no contact with the county other than sending the county a letter that they were ceasing operations.

He said several other companies, including Vetter Stone, mine either dimensional stone or aggregate off the top of the land before Covia got down to the silica mining. He said those other companies aren’t sure how things will move forward for them.

“There’s a lot of valuable dimension stone and aggregate on that property.”

And, Pettis said, Covia is the county’s largest property taxpayer and aggregate taxpayer. Covia owns several thousands of acres, he said.

Le Sueur County Auditor-Treasurer Pam Simonette said Covia paid $675,500 in property taxes this year and $325,500 in aggregate taxes.

Covia, formerly Unimin, has been mining silica in Kasota and Ottawa for more than 30 years. Covia has more than 40 plants.

Covia said it is still operating in the Ottawa mine.

Silica sand, which has tiny, hard spherical grains, is used in the hydraulic fracturing process used to release natural gas and oil.

Fracking has declined nationwide. Prices for frack sand have been lower than expected, a casualty of the broader slowdown afflicting the shale industry and oversupply from sand miners.

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