The Buffalo County Board is expected to vote Tuesday on proposed new regulations that would govern the silica sand mining industry. Before the vote, residents will have the last chance to weigh in on the ordinance changes. The meeting will be held at 9 a.m. on April 16 at the Buffalo County Courthouse in Alma, Wis.
Seven sand mines have been approved in Buffalo County thus far, with most expected to begin operations soon. County leaders have been working on new regulations for the growing industry for months, during a moratorium that prohibited new mines from being permitted to operate. The moratorium is expected to end on April 30.
The draft ordinance to regulate new mines would prohibit mining activities in residential, commercial, and recreational districts, but would allow mines on land zoned for industrial or agricultural use. "Transloading" facilities, used to transfer sand from truck to rail, would only be allowed in industrial areas.
All sand mines, processing facilities, and transloading operations must obtain a conditional use permit, and the draft ordinance outlines the process by which the county will evaluate such facilities. Mine proposers must submit operation plans, details about the amount of water that might be needed, as well as maps showing the location of surface water or wetlands within 2,640 feet of the mine boundary. Applicants must also submit "financial assurance" for reclamation plans before any mining activity may begin.
New mines may not permanently lower the water table under the new ordinance, which also requires mine operators to comply with Wisconsin standards for the control of fugitive dust.
Unannounced inspections may be conducted at the mine sites to ensure that regulations are being followed. Mine permits can be revoked if operators do not comply with regulations, according to the draft, and an operator found to have violated the ordinance or permit conditions may face fines of between $100 and $1,000. Each day a regulation is violated will be considered a separate violation, and if fines are not paid, an operator could be jailed for between one day and six months.