In the mid-2010s, there was concern about the mining of silica sand (also called “frac sand” or “frack sand” due to its use in hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas extraction). In March 2013, EQB issued a report on the issue of silica sand mining in Minnesota.
The 2013 Minnesota Legislature passed, and Governor Mark Dayton signed legislation to address silica sand mining, processing, and transportation operations in Minnesota. The legislation directs state agencies to provide local units of government with technical assistance on regulation and permitting. In addition, the legislation sets new thresholds for environmental review of silica-sand-related operations and required development of several new regulations.
As part of the 2013 Legislation, the Environmental Quality Board was mandated to:
- Develop model standards and criteria for mining, processing, and transporting silica sand. These are available as Tools to Assist Local Governments in Planning for and Regulating Silica Sand Projects updated 1/5/2017.
- Assemble a silica sand technical assistance team to provide local units of government that host facilities for silica sand mining, processing and transloading. When requested, the team provided assistance with ordinance development, zoning, environmental review and permitting, monitoring, or other issues arising from silica sand mining and processing operations. Staff and elected officials from cities, townships, or counties can request technical assistance or additional information by contacting the EQB’s environmental review team. As part of providing assistance, EQB hosts a silica sand ordinance library.
- Amend its rules for environmental review, for silica sand mining and processing to take into account the increased activity in the state and concerns over the size of specific operations. The EQB convened an advisory panel on the rulemaking and completed an update of the rules. The requirements for environmental review of silica sand are now incorporated into Minn. R. 4410.
For more information on silica sand, see: