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As others see it: Let's boost sand mining

The new industry of sand mining in Minnesota and Wisconsin brings economic development to the upper Midwest. It also brings new environmental risks as two recent Wisconsin sand operations have demonstrated.

Wisconsin is now seeking civil penalties against two Minnesota-based mine operators of two different sand mining operations, which suffered recent spills.

This mining has become a newfound gold rush due to the sky-rocketing value of sand utilized in oil and gas extraction, commonly known as hydrofracking. This sand is often injected deep underground to force open cracks to release oil and gas trapped underground.

Much of the sand lying underneath part of Minnesota and Wisconsin is prized for its hardness, round shape and large size.

This fledgling business is booming. More than 68 sand mines have opened in Wisconsin in the last two years. There is growing interest for proposed sand mine operations in southeastern and western Minnesota as well.

There is growing concern over the impact of such mines in the same area, including Big Stone County in western Minnesota.

The two recent sand spills in Wisconsin demonstrate the damage potential when an operation suffers a failure of some type. ... Wisconsin is pursuing civil penalties in both cases.

This new sand industry has positive economic benefit for landowners and operators. These recent spills also demonstrate these operations carry risk in environmental and land reuse areas.

Minnesota is lagging behind Wisconsin in sand mine development. This slower growth may help Minnesota better regulate this fast developing industry.