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Third review for Winona County silica mine is open for comment

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ST. CHARLES — An environmental review is open for comment for a third silica sand mining operation proposed for south of St. Charles, though this one would be smaller than the first two, whose public comment periods ended Wednesday.

The newest permit request is for a mine in Saratoga Township. The mine would be owned by David and Sherry Nisbit and would be operated by IT Sands LLC, according to the environmental assessment worksheet.

The mine would be a few miles south of the Dabelstein and Yoder sites that are a few months ahead of the Nisbit site in the permitting process. Public comment on the Nisbit site will go through Feb. 20.

Silica sand is in large supply in the blufflands of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, and is valued for use in drilling for oil and natural gas. Silica sand's hard, round grains are mixed with water and chemicals and injected deep into the ground at high pressure, fracturing the rock that holds gas or oil; the sand keeps the fractures open.

The Yoder and Dabelstein operations would extract much more sand and be open for about 20 years; each would see about 300 trucks in and out each day. The Nisbit would mine silica for about three years and see about 120 trucks each day.

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When the silica sand is done being mined at the Nisbit site, it will continue to be mined for finer sand used in cattle bedding.

To get the silica sand, harder rock atop a hump in a field would be taken off and the sillica removed. When the mining is done, it would be a smaller hump and returned to pasture.

The Nisbits own 74.09 acres but only 19.1 would be used for the silica operation, the worksheet states. The sand would be crushed to remove larger cemented stones and very fine sand, but the final refining to get only the best sand would be done in Winona where it would be trucked.

Related Topics: MINING
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