White sand resources of Arland Township attracting mining interests

Hay River Review, January 09
by Jim Hare

Representatives of as yet unidentified mining interests have been surveying the white silica sands underlying parts of south west Arland Township. At a township meeting on December 9, Mel Bollum and Richard Kibbe presented tentative plans for what could be a significant mine and processing facility on or near County Road P north of the Prairie Farm Township line. 

The mining company is looking at building a processing and storage plant on about 30 acres with water retention and recycling ponds to handle the sand mined from roughly ten acres per year over 30 years. The processing involves storage, washing, drying and grading. 

According to Dave Ludequam who owns some of the land of interest, the plans are all subject to the results of a more extensive study of the sand layer. “They will be drilling in a grid pattern to make sure they know how much sand is there before anything else happens.” If there is enough sand close to the surface to justify the construction of a processing plant then the next steps would be to site the processing facility and file the state mine reclamation permits and bonding to ensure eventual restoration of the land should the company fail before completing reclamation of the land. 

As an un-zoned township, the Arland town board will have no veto over the land use, and the County Zoning Department will only be involved if the land in question is 1,000 feet from a lake or 300 feet from a stream. Dale Hanson, of the Barron County Soil and Water Conservation Department, who would be administering the state non-metallic mining regulations and permits, said his office has not had any contact from any companies regarding this proposal.

At the December 9 meeting several concerns were raised, including the potential damage to the roads, air and water quality as well as the increased noise and traffic. The consultants were confident all such concerns would be dealt with. It was also suggested that a more widely publicized meeting be held so more the townships residents could find out more directly what is being planned for their community.

The sands of Arland Township are interesting primarily for ‘frac-sand’ in the oil and gas industry. Oil field contractors mix frac sand or other ‘propellant’ into a slurry of brine and other chemicals and pump the mix at extremely high pressures into the oil or gas bearing rock. This pressure causes the rock to fracture and the sand grains to fill the resulting fissures and prop them open, resisting closure pressures of upwards of 6000 PSI. With the fissures propped open, the gas or oil can flow more readily between the grains of sand. Frac sand is graded based on how closely it resembles a perfect sphere and how similar in size each particle is. The white sands of the upper Midwest are preferred over the more irregular brown sands more commonly available in the South.

Township board chair Ray Rischette said  “mining the sand could be a big benefit to the area,” adding to the tax base, providing a few more jobs and potentially more kids for the school. He added that there was as yet no mine related business on the agenda of the next township board meeting on January 8.