Moratorium provides times to review mining regulations
WABASHA — Wabasha County has put a moratorium on mining silica sand, a process that's valuable for getting natural gas and oil out of the ground.
The Wabasha County Board approved the moratorium last week, and it could be in place for up to a year, said County Administrator Dave Johnson. The moratorium will give the county a chance to research the implications of such mining and make sure mining won't be a net loss to the county, Johnson said.
No one has bought any land or begun work on such a mine in Wabasha County, but a company has been talking with landowners, Johnson said. That gives the county time to review and possibly change its ordinance. There are plans for a mine in neighboring Goodhue County.
Concerns include what to do with material left after the silica is washed, possible road damage from heavy trucks, air pollution from particulates and lower property values, he said. Also, the county wants to make sure mines are reclaimed after the work is done. The county doesn't want to be stuck with a big hole in the ground, he said.
In Goodhue County, Windsor Permian has purchased 155 acres two miles south of Red Wing for $2.6 million and another 40 acres just north of Lake City. The Oklahoma-based energy company has announced its intention to create a frac sand mine operation in the area, though no permit requests have been filed.
Those plans spurred the creation of a group called Citizens Against Silica Mining, which fears the mined silica can cause cancer in exposed people.
"This is our chance to set a precedent," said Dr. Karen DeLuca of Red Wing, one of the group's representatives. "This is our opportunity to let the large oil companies know they aren't going to destroy (our community)."
The Goodhue County group has requested a one-year moratorium on the mining; the request was tabled in June by the Goodhue County Planning Advisory Commission and will be considered next week.