Staff editorial: Dec 8, 2011

Story by The Spectator Staff

In mid-November, members of the Eau Claire County Board voted 24-2 to approve a moratorium on sand mining in the area.

Two companies had submitted applications to open new sand mines in the area, adding to the current tally of 40 mines proposed, planned or operating in west-central Wisconsin, according to an article in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram.

Sand mining is growing popular in the area because sand grains are of an ideal spherical shape and hardness. The particles mined then become “frac sand,” useful in the extracation of natural gas and oil.

While some view sand mining as an economic advantage to the area, others are wary of mining’s negative effects on the environment. The moratorium is meant to gather as much information as possible on the potentially harmful effects of mining on air and water quality.

While those that voted no to the moratorium feel that six months is far too long, others fear the six months are not enough time to glean all the information needed. Sand mining is relatively new to Wisconsin and the Department of Natural Resources has not yet been able to measure the negative consequences on the environment. The moratorium will ensure as much information as possible has been learned before jumping into an industry that will be difficult to slow once it starts up.

Another grievance with the possibility of sand mining is the lack of job creation. The two companies looking to start mines in the Chippewa Valley, Hi-Crush Proppants of Houston, Tex. and High Country of Winona, Minn., are each fully-developed businesses that will bring their own employees to the area, not generating a great deal of jobs.

Clearly, sand mining is a risk for the Chippewa Valley. The County Board was right to impose on it a moratorium to learn as much as we can before potentially making a mistake.