Frac sand boom creates prosperity, shovel-ready jobs, and “sand millionaires” in America’s sandbox, but generates controversy
“I spent the weekend along the Mississippi River in Buffalo City, Wisconsin, about 120 miles south of Minneapolis-St. Paul (across the river from Winona, Minnesota), where there is a growing controversy in sand-rich southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin (“America’s Sandbox”) about mining for frac sand (the silica sand used for hydraulic fracturing). While starting my drive this morning to the Minneapolis airport, I took pictures of the two signs above that help tell the story of the controversy.
“On one side are the frac sand supporters (“dig, baby, dig”), which include dozens of new “sand millionaires” who have reaped huge financial windfalls by selling or leasing their land for sand mining, or by selling their mineral rights for amounts typically exceeding $100,000 (in addition to royalties for each ton of frac sand mined). Frac sand mining has further stimulated local economies in Minnesota and Wisconsin by bringing many high-paying jobs (each frac sand mine employs between 10 and 20 people, while 40 to 50 people work at a typical sand processing plant, and dozens of truck drivers are hired to haul frac sand to processing plants and rail terminals), raising household incomes, bringing millions of dollars of new capital investments, and pumping revenue into area businesses and local governments.”