Superior Silica Sands’ plan to more than double the size of its Town of Auburn frac sand mine in Chippewa County drew scant public attention Wednesday night.
A hearing on the company’s reclamation plan for the mine eight miles northwest of Bloomer drew 10 people. Only two, both longtime opponents of sand mines, commented on the reclamation plans for the mine that Superior Silica wants to expand from 200 acres to 475 acres.
“Mining is expected to commence during the summer of 2013 and would be completed by approximately 2025,” said the plan filed with the county.
Patricia Popple of Chippewa Falls called on the Chippewa County Board to hire more staff in the county’s Land Conservation and Forest Management Department, that will make a decision on the reclamation plan within 60 days of Wednesday’s public hearing.
She said sand mines need unannounced visits, and that’s not possible without additional personnel.
Popple said many people are concerned about serious environmental consequences of mining, and that there are few protections for the public.
“I would hate to think people in this county are guinea pigs,” she said.
Heather Andersen, a Town of Auburn resident, said that when a mining company takes down a forest, it is clear cut and nothing is salvageable
“If you are taking the forest away, the forest should be put back,” Andersen said. She also wondered if studies have been done of the wildlife habitat where the mine would be expanded.
“If you are going to try to reclaim (the mining site), you better know what was there to begin with,” she said.
Seth Ebel, a project engineer with the Land Conservation Department, said 14.1 million cubic yards of material would be removed from the mining site over a decade.
The site is mined in designated areas called cells. The current mine has five cells. An expanded mine would have 18 cells, Ebel said.
“This will not be a 475-acre open mine. It will be continuously reclaimed as it is mined,” he said.
Superior Silica currently has five groundwater monitoring wells that primarily measure water elevation. With the expansion, Superior Silica would add seven more.
“This permit is for life of mine, so we don’t have the ability to limit duration,” Ebel said.
Superior Silica Sands has offices in Fort Worth and Kosse, Texas. Superior Silica opened the mine in the summer of 2011, and filed the expansion request July 31.
The owners of the mining site are Robert Haas, Lary and Anna Boese, David and Bonnie Dobbs and Chris and Dennis Culver.
Written comments on the reclamation plan will be accepted until Friday, Feb. 22. The comments may be sent to: Chippewa County Department of Land Conservation and Forest Management, Room 011, 711 N. Bridge St., Chippewa Falls, WI 54729.