By June 16, 2015 Read More →

Frac sand mining has huge impact on local economies – study

Authors conclude frac sand mining has been a huge benefit to rural Wisconsin economy

Hydraulic fracturing in shale formations requires large quantities of frac sand and mining it has become big business, especially in Wisconsin, according to a new study from  The Heartland Institute.

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Aerial view of Wisconsin frac sand mining operation. Photo:

The study, titled “Economic Impacts of Industrial Silica Sand (Frac Sand) Mining,” is the second in a series by Heartland Institute Research Fellow Isaac Orr and geologist Mark Krumenacher, who is principal and senior vice president of GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc., addressing the mining of industrial silica sand.

Frac sand is abundant in the Upper Midwest – especially rural Wisconsin, which produces two-thirds of the nation’s frac sand.

“When I started college at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire in 2006, people there were still talking about how the town had never really recovered from the UniRoyal Tire factory closing in town, even though the tire factory closed in 1991,” said Orr.

“Now, thousands of people have high-paying jobs in the area.”

Orr and Krumenacher note that Wisconsin, “has strong agricultural and tourism sectors and therefore provides valuable insight into claims industrial sand mining could negatively affect these industries.”

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Heartland Institute Research Fellow Isaac Orr.

Demand for frac sand has led many counties and municipalities to process applications for new mines and processing facilities. Policymakers and citizens in these communities need the information in this new Heartland Policy Study to make informed decisions about the economic benefits and costs of industrial sand mining.

“Oil and natural gas currently account for 35 and 28 percent of our total energy consumption, respectively, and we will continue to need increasing amounts of these resources in the future,” Orr continued.

“Shale gas already accounts for 40 percent of our total natural gas production, and this figure is likely to grow, meaning frac sand mining will continue to be an important part of the Western Wisconsin economy for decades to come.”

The benefits of silica sand mining include high-paying opportunities for employment, increasing regional economic activity, generating tax revenues for state and local governments, and improving economic diversity in rural communities that rely heavily on agriculture for household income.

Highlights of the study:

  • Studies conducted by regulatory bodies and research groups have conclusively shown silica sand mining operations do not increase the concentrations of silica sand particles in the ambient air downwind of such operations.
  • Water use data show silica sand mining operations consume a small fraction of state-wide water resources.
  • The existing local, state, and federal regulatory structure is designed to ensure silica sand mining – and myriad other industrial operations – is conducted in a manner that ensures compliance with air and water quality standards, and thus protects human health and the environment.
  • The increase in silica sand mining has had substantial economic and employment benefits in the states that have benefitted from the silica sand mining boom.
  • Silica sand mining is an important part of the larger, recent revolution in domestic energy production, by which the United States is producing ever-increasing amounts of affordable clean energy by tapping into a huge supply of heretofore untouched resources.

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