Sand Mined for Fracking Wells in Midwest Generates Environmental and Health Concerns

Posted Dec. 3, 2014

MP3 Interview with Bobby King, an organizer with the Minnesota-based Land Stewardship Project, conducted by Melinda Tuhus


A Minnesota company that mines sand to supply fracking wells, a controversial method of extracting natural gas from shale bedrock was recently fined $85,000 in mid-November for several violations, including emitting unlawfully high levels of toxic dust. So-called "frac sand" is the least well-known of three kinds of raw materials used to frack a well. Other resources used in the fracking method include millions of gallons of water and a toxic brew of chemicals, many of them cancer-causing or endocrine-disrupting. As fracking wells have sprouted up around the country, the extraction method has triggered local opposition due to pollution of the air and groundwater.

Frac sand mining takes place almost exclusively along the upper Mississippi River in Wisconsin and Minnesota, which has the specific type of sand needed for fracking operations. A single fracked well can use up to 10,000 tons of this special sand over its lifetime. Critics say that mining for sand has devastated the region, creating similar environmental damage and health concerns as the fracking process itself.

Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Bobby King, policy program organizer with the Minnesota-based Land Stewardship Project. Here, he explains how this special sand came to exist in the region, the grassroots-led fights against frac sand mining, and how it fits into the bigger picture of extreme energy extraction.

Find more information on the controversy surrounding mining sand for fracking by visiting the Land Stewardship Project at

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