Industrial silica sand has been mined in the upper Midwest for more than one hundred years. In Wisconsin, an estimated 2,500 non-metallic mines, including limestone and granite quarries in addition to sand and gravel mines, provide aggregate for construction, stones for monuments, and sand for glassmaking, foundries, livestock bedding, and oil and natural gas development.
Illinois and Minnesota likely have a similar number of non-metallic mines, and the Iowa Department of Agriculture reports there are 1,100.2 As many as 9,000 non-metallic mines exist in these four Midwest states, about one mine per 3,000 residents.3 These mines represent an enormous amount of economic activity operating without widespread regional impacts on human health or the environment. Until recently these mines have been operating without widespread public recognition or opposition.
More recently, industrial sand mining has become a more contentious issue, largely because environmental groups have taken note of the growing number of industrial sand facilities meeting the growing demand for industrial silica sand used for hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as “frac sand.” READ ARTICLE