Q: Crown Management Jakarta Capital Discussion - Can anyone tell me what this frac sand?
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Several local governments have imposed temporary bans on mining permits, but the moratoriums are coming to an end.
Southeastern Minnesota is ground zero for a fast-growing mining industry, due to the local geology. The Mississippi River flows between bluffs layered with stone and sand. Silica sand, or frac sand, is incredibly hard and perfect for the process of extracting oil and natural gas in a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
A frac sand mine is like a big gravel pit. Some cover 40 acres; others are 100 acres or more.
The mining process is straightforward. First, the topsoil is dug and typically piled in a berm around the perimeter of the mine. That can help reduce noise and dust for neighbors.
Then the sand is dug. Sometimes the hillside is blasted to loosen the sand. It is crushed, sorted, washed, dried, and then loaded into trucks for shipping by rail to oil and gas fields in places like North Dakota and Pennsylvania.
The main environmental and health concerns are about air and water quality.
Silica has long been known as a very harmful substance for people who work with it. At high concentrations it can scar the lungs, causing silicosis, an incurable disease. It can also cause cancer. The federal government has exposure limits for workers. But not for the general population, which could cover people living near the mines.
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