What is Frac Sand Mining?
Frac sand is used in hydraulic fracturing (fracking), which is an extraction method used to release petroleum, natural gas, and other substances from deep within the ground. Frac sand, or silica, is quartz sand of a certain size and shape. This sand is suspended in fluid, and the slurry is injected into oil and gas wells under high pressure to open and enlarge fractures, as well as to create new ones. Most fraking operations are in North Dakota, Arkansas, Texas, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Pennsylvania.
The specific sand particles used in fracking are found in natural lands of Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. As fracking has become a lucrative extraction process, the demand for sand has risen. Because of this, industrial-sized mining of frac sand has begun across Wisconsin, Minnesota, and now Iowa. These sand frac particles come from sandstone layers named for the locations where they were originally found: St. Peter, Jordan, and Wonewoc; Winneshiek County has both St Peter and Jordan sandstone.
What are the Issues with Frac Sand Mining?
On the industrial scale, frac sand mining threatens the environmental and community health and well being of surrounding communities. Unregulated frac sand mining can have devastating effects ranging from air borne sand particles; diesel exhaust, dust, and road wear caused by heavy truck traffic; ground well contamination from the mining process; and the physical destruction of sand-filled bluffs. Mining is not a sustainable economic activity; it results in permanent alteration of the existing landscape.