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New mines in Trempealeau County (06/05/2013)
From: Tom Bice

Chairman of the Environment and Land Use Committee

At our last Trempealeau County Board meeting, we had a moratorium for new sand mines on the agenda, and it failed to pass. It was a long, educational discussion, and it was very hard for most to vote for or against it. Here is my perspective after researching it in depth.

We have had about 100 people who have actively worked to slow or stop the sand mining activity in Trempealeau County. They simply donít like it. They did get close to a thousand people to sign a petition to encourage a moratorium. There is a great deal of misinformation presented by people who dislike sand mining.

Trempealeau County has had a non-metallic mining ordinance for many years. We recently updated the ordinance; over 96% of those speaking at the public hearing supported the new ordinance. With that info, and the fact that the Environment and Land Use Committee adds up to 40 additional conditions on a Conditional Use Permit, we have no legitimate reason to put a moratorium in place. There may be legal consequences if we do, and I detest the idea of spending taxpayer dollars to keep attorneys busy. The committee looks over the mining application, has a public hearing, adds appropriate conditions, and then assesses the overall application; if it is complete, we vote on it.

By the time the applicants meet the ordinance requirements, they have submitted the engineering, the planned transportation routes, and the additional conditions that are often very specific to each individual application. The list of additional conditions that we come up with amounts to a massive amount of regulation.

Mining in Trempealeau County has gone on for decades; the roads, sidewalks, bridges and driveways we drive on are made with aggregate we have been mining for over 100 years. We have glass windows and concrete blocks; the list goes on and on.

Silicosis is a very real and horrible disease, but so far we have not seen the fine particles that cause silicosis in the sand mining process used in Trempealeau or Jackson County. The harmful dust comes from industrial manipulation of silica sand. We continue to look for updated information on this. Our most recent Conditional Use Permits require the strictest air monitoring system ever in Trempealeau County.

We do have more trucks on the road, and we can and do tell them where they can drive, when they can drive, and to cover the load. Trucking of sand will diminish, as the sand value has dropped to the point that if the sand is not on rail within a few miles of the area mined, it is not feasible to sell sand in most cases.

Lastly, we have a requirement of high quality reclamation in our ordinance; this is secured by a bond posted by the applicant. When the mine operators finish the first phases of the process, they start reclamation on the first area, while opening the second or third phase. 

 

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