Sand mining companies form state association

The discovery that western Wisconsin sand is ideal for use in the controversial “fracking” process in mining has created both economic opportunity and environmental concern. With the sand mining industry taking off in Wisconsin, four companies have formed a state association to represent the industry in what promises to be a bumpy ride for additional growth, according to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The companies have formed the Wisconsin Industrial Sand Mining Association and hired a lobbying group and public relations executive to make their case.

The association consists of Fairmount Minerals, which operates Wisconsin Industrial Sand Co., plus Badger Mining Corp. in Berlin, U.S. Silica Holdings Inc. of Frederick, Md., and Unimin Corp. of New Canaan, Conn.

They hope to add other mining interests as they attempt to convince state residents and policymakers that sand mining not only can create jobs, but be conducted in an environmentally safe fashion.

The group has hired the lobbying organization Capitol Consultants, headed by William McCoshen, former Thompson administration commerce secretary, and public relations executive Evan Zeppos of the Laughlin Constable firm, who has worked for Democrats.

In the past two years, the industry has grown from five sand mines and five processing plants to 73 mines and 37 plants, accounting for an estimated 2,780 jobs, and more are on the drawing board.

While the Department of Natural Resources has determined that existing air quality, groundwater, and surface water protection rules are sufficient, environmentalists have raised doubts about road and rail congestion and the possibility that a known carcinogen, crystalline silica, could be carried airborne from the sand mining sites and be inhaled by nearby residents.