First test of 2013 Minnesota frac sand law is successful

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The owner of a controversial Houston County silica sand mine was notified Monday by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that he must stop mining and apply for a DNR Silica Sand Mining Trout Stream Setback Permit. The Erickson silica sand mine in Houston County’s Yucatan Township is within a mile of Ferndale Brook, a designated trout stream. This is the first silica mine to test a 2013 state law which established a rigorous permitting process for silica sand mines proposed within one mile of a trout stream.

Despite being informed by the DNR in an April letter that the DNR Setback Permit is required, the mine owner began mining activity on July 24. The DNR, once informed by neighbors of mining activity, took quick action and on July 28 delivered a letter, via a conservation officer, to mine owner Tracie Erickson ordering mining to stop. Since the letter delivery, neighbors have noted no mining activity at the site.

The Erickson silica sand mine has been strongly opposed by residents in Houston County, who have been fighting this proposal for over two years. At one time, the mine was part of the Minnesota Sands, LLC multi-site frac sand proposal, which is subject to a pending Environmental Impact Statement. Claiming to have severed ties with the Minnesota Sands, LLC proposal, the Erickson mine was released from environmental review by state officials.

The DNR Trout Stream Setback Permit requirement was made part of a legislative package passed in 2013 that is designed to limit the harm of frac sand mining. The Trout Stream Setback Permit application process includes an extensive year-long hydrological study and a financial assurance bond.

Johanna Rupprecht is a Land Stewardship Project organizer based in southeastern Minnesota. She can be reached via e-mail or at 507-523-3366.

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