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Published May 01, 2013, 09:06 AM

Minnesota Senate panel rejects anti-sand mining measure

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota Senate committee has rejected a proposal to protect trout streams from the potential impacts of silica sand mining.

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota Senate committee has rejected a proposal to protect trout streams from the potential impacts of silica sand mining.

The measure was defeated on a mostly party-line vote Tuesday, with Republicans and two Iron Range DFLers opposed, Minnesota Public Radio reported. It would have required silica sand mines in southeastern Minnesota to be located at least a mile from any spring or trout stream.

Peder Larson of the Minnesota Industrial Sand Council testified the requirement would essentially prevent sand mining in southeastern Minnesota.

"I've had a chance to talk with one of our consultants over the interim here, and she said it's pretty darn hard to find a place in large parts of Minnesota that aren't a mile from a spring where there might be sand," Larson said. "So we really consider one of these provisions to be a virtual moratorium in this part of the state on mining."

But John Lenczewski of Trout Unlimited testified that trout angling is a billion-dollar industry in the region, and that the Department of Natural Resources has invested heavily in improving trout habitat. He said silica sand mines threaten the cold water springs that sustain the region's fisheries.

"Without the cold water from the springs, the trout fisheries disappear, the investment is wasted, and thousands of jobs that are dependent on this industry are lost," Lenczewski said.

The oil and gas industry uses silica sand in the hydraulic fracturing process to unlock underground energy supplies. The sand underneath parts of western Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota has the ideal shape, hardness and purity for the process. But mining the sand has generated opposition because of the impacts on the environment, health and public infrastructure such as roads and bridges. Supporters say it creates good jobs and fosters energy independence.

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