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Group proposes frac sand ban in Houston County

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CALEDONIA, Minn. — An environmental group on Tuesday proposed banning large-scale frac sand mining.

The Houston County Protectors offered the county board what the advocacy group described as a “thoughtful, balanced” amendment to the county’s mining ordinance.

Representing the Houston County Protectors, Ken Tschumper told the board the proposed change to the county’s mineral extraction ordinance “resolves much of the controversy … by proposing two significant changes” — prohibiting frac sand mining and resolving problems with nonconforming mines.

“I encourage you to read and study this proposed amendment carefully,” Tschumper told the board. “I think you will find that it is a thoughtful, balanced and substantive effort by members of Houston County Protectors to find common ground among most of the opinions and views on what is workable and what is problematic in Section 27.”

Tschumper said the proposal is for residents because it bans frac sand mining; for miners because it outlines a path toward a predictable business plan; for property owners adjacent to mines because it assures them what to expect when living next to a mine and outlines recourse should a problem develop; and the county government because it eliminates nonconforming mines, clarifies actions for regulating mines and simplifies the workload by streamlining enforcement and complaint issues.

The proposed language more clearly specifies the definition of excavation and mining in the ordinance, which includes “the process or method of digging, excavating, mining, drilling, blasting, tunneling, dredging, stripping, or removing metals, minerals or materials from the land surface or underground.” It also addresses washing and filtering the material, as well as its transportation from the excavation site.

The changes, the group says, will “minimize the impact on existing mining, which supplies local farms and businesses with sand and gravel.”

“It is an effort by members of Houston County Protectors to find common ground with the mining community on how to deal with frac sand mining, specifically, and mineral extraction, in general,” Tschumper said. “If these changes are approved, every resident will benefit and every current mine operator will be better off, also.”

The board didn’t discuss the proposal Tuesday and took no action on it. The next step in the process is a public hearing by the planning commission, which will make a recommendation to the full board. It’s expected to be several weeks before the public hearing takes place.

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