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Minn. Proppant St. Charles sand plans dropped (03/18/2013)
By Chris Rogers
• Minn. Proppant officials not done with St. Charles site

Officials confirm new plan for crop terminal on land formerly planned for MN Proppant sand facility.

• Proppant investors head to Wisconsin

Five or six of eight investors will seek new sand processing site in Wisconsin. Rick Frick, silent partner, will look for a new location in Minnesota for sand processing and transportation.

• Adjacent mine proposals less financially attractive

Minnesota Sands official confirms that, without Minn. Proppant, its proposed mines—including Yoder and Dabelstein sites—won't be as financially attractive, since the sand will likely have to be hauled via truck farther to another site.

Minnesota Proppant says it has new plans for the site of its proposed frac sand rail terminal in St. Charles. Actually, it is an old plan. The site was initially billed as Farm2Rail, a transport facility for agriculture products and frac sand, and the company plans to go back to that plan, minus the frac sand. Mitch Bublitz, a consultant to Minnesota Sands and Minnesota Proppant, said that Minnesota Proppant will continue to pursue purchasing the 304-acre site adjacent to St. Charles with the intention of constructing an intermodal transportation facility for agricultural products. "If nothing else we'll raise corn and beans on it," said Bublitz of the site.

That announcement comes as a bit of a surprise after the St. Charles City Council denied an annexation petition for the site which would have allowed it to pursue permitting it as a frac sand facility. (See story page 5a.) Minnesota Proppant even closed its office in St. Charles.

Some thought that between a potential state-wide moratorium and local resistance, the project was dead. Five or six of the company's original eight investors have left and are turning their search for frac sand facilities to Wisconsin, Bublitz said. Rick Frick, the project's founder, and an unnamed minority holder, are the remaining owners of Minnesota Proppant. They are looking elsewhere for a frac sand transport facility site, Bublitz said. They have potential locations, but declined to say where.

"Lewiston is looking for someone from Minnesota Sands and Minnesota Proppant to put a rail facility in their fair city," Bublitz said. "I think that's a great idea. That type of attitude is what is going on in Wisconsin. They all want to have a rail loading facility so they can tax it."

Minnesota Sands has 11 proposed mines in the area, according to the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board. Bublitz said while Minnesota Sands expects to complete an Environmental Impact Statement and begin mining, those sites are less appealing because of the St. Charles City Council decision. "Anytime you have to transport the product, it is hard on everything. It's hard on the roads; the farther you have to truck it the harder it is."

The St. Charles City Council's decision is not the last word on the site, but makes permitting for a frac sand transport facility there less likely for now.

St. Charles is missing an opportunity, Bublitz said.

"We anticipate sand being mined, and so the question is where is the plant going to be located? Which township is going to be receiving all the property tax dollars? Which community is going to benefit the most for labor, and the business that all these worker bring?" he asked.

"Things that we're trying to do in Minnesota are an automatic in Wisconsin," Bublitz added. The business, along with its jobs and tax dollars are going across the river, he said.

"There is this myth that someone in some far off land is going to make this money. That is not true. [Minnesota Proppant] is all locally owned and operated. There is no big company out there that is going to extract all the money and take it far far away."

When told Minnesota Proppant claims it will still pursue the St. Charles site, spokesperson for the Concerned Citizens of St. Charles Travis Lange asked, "So they can turn it into a frac sand facility later?" He laughed a little and added, "If that is the case, the concerned citizens aren't going anywhere." Lange thought Minnesota Proppant would have a hard time winning support for any facility in St. Charles at this point.

"They're definitely very upset about what happened Tuesday night and they are just trying to stake their claim and say they're not going anywhere," Lange interpreted.



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