Because Monroe County
has become
a sand mining capital,
I've consolidated
sand mining coverage
at
www.monroecountysandmines.org.

Please go there
for the latest sand mine news.

The Sparta Herald and Monroe County Democrat
are also a good source of sand mine news.
They are not online, but I am posting PDFs of their coverage.


Meanwhile, come back to this website soon. I'm reorganizing it to tell the story of one rural township's battle with a global company devoted to bigger and bigger profits. It's a classic story of David vs. Goliath. The Davids are the folks of the town of Greenfield and I promise you, they're a colorful cast of characters.

Proposed Mining Ordinance

But Unimin is not the only sand mine interested in the town of Greenfield and the yellow gold under its fields and hills. There is a chance to enact an ordinance that would give the town some control over any sand mines that want to come into the area--and could possibly discourage some from moving in! Remember, a major reason Unimin chose Greenfield was because it's not zoned. It knew it would have free rein to do what it wished. That can happen again--unless the town takes Radcliffe's advice. Aim for the November town board meeting!
Updates on Tunnel City Sand Mine

Tuesday, Oct. 11 -- Steve Groening , special projects manager for the 500-plus-acre sand mine that Unimin Corporation is building in Tunnel City, said at last night's regularly monthly town of Greenfield meeting that the mine should be producing sand by the end of 2013.

Groening, who is the on-the-ground guy for the Tunnel City sand mine
, gave an update about what Unimin is doing.

- Currently geological drilling is under way with an extensive team of geologists and drill teams drilling definition holes.
- The DNR has issued permits to construct roads through wood lots for the drill pads.  Red stakes indicate drill pads.
- Initial preparation for the building site is under way--150 acres are being cleared. Unimin said earlier this summer that it would mine in 150-acre sections.
- Next: stripping timber and top soil. Unimin will mix timber chips with top soil to create mulch to be stored in stock piles.
- Unimin will re-vegetate as it works, creating  undulating mounds and covering them with the mulch mixture.
- Unimin will make an effort to conceal the plant from Hwy. 21.
- There will be heavy traffic. Groening said that there will be an impact and residents should not hesitate to contact the Township or Unimin with any concerns.
- Negotiations regarding the road to Hwy. 21 continue, involving Wisconsin's DOT, both railroads.
- There will be a bridge "over the top of the tracks" leading to the plant.   Construction of that "bridge" will begin late this fall.  Until then traffic will go through Tunnel City.
- The cleanup effort at Flamingo and Flag was begun.   Any man-made debris has been hauled away--septic tanks, etc.  There will be a big difference by the end of October.
- Groening said that town chair Steve Witt, Unimin and the Department of Natural Resources will decide upon the location of the new recycling center that it is building for the town as part of a development agreement between the town and Unimin. Some wetland issues remain to be resolved.
- Unimin did not plan to purchase the 5.61 acres on which the former dump was located 20 years ago because the site was never cleared by the DNR when it was closed, but Unimin has now agreed to purchase it and to cover it with sand.  
One member of the audience asked if the town would be liable if the site were found to be contaminated but the board's response was that nothing has surfaced in 20 years and Unimin intends to cover it with sand, there should be no problems.
- Unimin will cover the $1,555 worth of expenses caused by special meetings throughout the summer although this was not part of its agreement with the town.
- No report from the subcommittee working on a ordinance to govern future sand mines moving into the area. Witt said that town attorney Rick Radcliffe is working on this with the state's Town Board Association, but work is going slowly.
- A special meeting will be held Nov. 21 to approve the resolution vacating Flagg and Flamingo Avenues--the township is turning these roads over to Unimin as part of the development agreement.

- One member of the audience proposed hiring a new town assessor. Town board member Gary Shutter said he, too, had some issues with the assessor.

Coming soon: video of last night's meeting and Rick Radcliffe's speech encouraging the town to pass a sand mining ordinance to govern future sand mines.


MSN Publicizes Dangers of Frack Sand Mining

Even in Texas, The Land of Oil--They Don't Like Sand Mining!

HOUSTON — Fracking, the latest push in the quest to produce oil and gas, has been blamed for environmental problems ranging from flammable tap water to minor earthquakes. Now a new risk is being alleged: sand mining.
To squeeze hydrocarbons out of shale through hydraulic fracturing of the rock — the process known as fracking — producers need to pump an enormous amount of sand and other materials into the ground.
Obtaining the sand for this requires removing the top layer of earth over a sandstone deposit and using heavy equipment and large amounts of water to produce the fine grains.
According to some environmentalists and residents of affected areas, sand mining poses a threat to air and water quality.
Facing a shortage of the sand needed in fracking, oil and gas producer EOG Resources got into this mining business to secure scare supplies and bring down costs.
But the company is facing big opposition to an operation planned in North Texas' Cooke County.

Click here to read the full story!
Town Okays Unimin User Fee Deal;
Eyes Ordinance to Control or Stop New Mines From Coming In

Image

Sept. 17 - As expected, voters in the town of Greenfield gave the town board the go ahead to sign a deal with Unimin last Monday night that means it can collect as much as $250,000 annually in user fees from the mine once it starts producing. Roughly 130 voters cast their ballots in the special election (no absentee ballots allowed) and voted overwhelmingly for the agreement.

This was not a vote to approve the mine--that was a done deal because Greenfield has no zoning and landowners can do what they want with their land. What the agreement did was use an ace in the hole the town had--land that Unimin wanted for the mine--to negotiate to the annual user fee. The agreement also gives the town some protections such as setbacks between mining operations and neighboring land (click here to read the full agreement). Unimin wanted two town-owned parcels of land: the town recycling center and a town road. That enabled Greenfield to negotiate benefits -- both financial and regulatory -- that it would not otherwise have gotten.

While the vote was a textbook case of government at the grass roots, the result was anti-climatic; more interesting was town attorney Rick Radcliffe's recommendation that the town of Greenfield draw up an ordinance that could regulate and perhaps even deter new sand mines from coming into the township. Many members of the town had lobbied for some kind of mining ordinance, licensing or moratorium throughout the summer, but the board had focused on negotiating with Unimin.

Radcliffe said Monday that the type of ordinance he was recommending would have to be narrowly defined and would capitalized on the town's right to regulate the
Image 3
health and safety of its citizens, hours of operation (Unimin will operate 24x7), noise, safety and dust (there is much concern about silica dust).

Unimin would be immune from this ordinance; the town signed away its right to apply any future sand mine regulations on Unimin as part of this deal. Radcliffe said that the agreement might give the town more protection than the type of ordinance he recommended would give.

Radcliffe said that the Wisconsin Towns Association, a non-profit that helps the state's more than 1200 townships with programs, services and information, would work with the town of Greenfield in developing such an ordinance. In addition, the town also has the authority to put weight limits on town roads and could go so far as to put weight limits only on specific stretches of town roads used by other land mines. Radcliffe stressed that the town can only put weight limits on town roads, not county roads or state highways.

That means the town could effectively shut down a mine with weight limits.

Read the full story ,,,



Click
here to read the final agreement!


Watch video of the vote tally at right
>
Town Pushes Back on Unimin Agreement, Gets More Money,
But No Dice on "Good Neighbor" Policy


Image 1
Tuesday, Aug. 23

Voters in the town of Greenfield get the final say on portions on a new version of a proposed agreement between Unimin, which plans to build a giant sand mine in the unzoned township, and the town itself, on Sept. 12. After their vote, the votes will be counted and the town board will vote on the full agreement in the regular monthly meeting.

The new agreement presented last night brings more money to the town and more guarantees that it will get that money than the first version, which was introduced last week at a highly charged meeting that saw heated debate about the proposal.

After that meeting town board representatives went back to Uninim. Town attorney Rick Radcliffe warned townspeople at the earlier meeting that Unimin could easily walk away from the deal. However, despite his fears, Unimin yielded on a few points, but not on others, a major one being compensating neighbors for property devaluation. However, Unimin did agree to pay the town more money and gave greater assurances that the town will get that money.
Image 10


The town will now get 15 cents a ton for the first million tons of sand mined each year and 10 cents a ton for the second million tons mined each year. Previously it had been 15 cents and five cents. In the first version of the agreement it sounded as though that the town would receive what is being called a user fee only as long as no other government entities--county, state or federal government--levied a tax on the sand mine. In the first agreement, it looked as though another government levied a tax, the town would lose that user fee. But the new version clarifies that. Should the county, state or federal government levy a tax and return some portion of that to the town of Greenfield, Unimin will take that portion off its user fee--but the town essentially will get the same amount. However, there may be some delay in the receipt of that money because if Unimin pays it to the county, state or federal government, the town has to wait to get reimbursed. However, if other government entities tax Unimin and do not pass any of those taxes on to the town, Unimin continues to pay the township that same amount. This means that the town will collect $250,000 annually from Unimin if it produces two million tons of sand of year. Unimin estimates that the mine will produce between one and two million tons of sand a year.

Image 36
The town was able to wring this deal from Unimin because it had two small aces in the hole in its favor. One was that Unimin wanted two pieces of land that the town owns: its landfill and a town road. The township will sell that landfill to Unimin for slightly more than stipulated in the first agreement. Surveys showed that the tract of land being sold was slightly larger than originally thought, the town will sell the site to Unimin for $265,250. Unimin will then give the town another site for its recycling center and and will reimburse the town for the cost of building a new center that is consistent with what it now has.

Read more ...
Welcome to Sand Mine Central

Connecticut-based Unimin, a major sand mining company, intends to build its biggest mine in just outside the tiny village of Tunnel City, Wis. Click here for background.


Property Value Impact

In other towns, there has been a 30 percent decrease. Watch the video below for some discussion at the Aug. 8 meeting--held in the LaGrange Elementary School instead of the town hall because of the turnout.

Work Continues on Unimin Agreement

Town attorney Rick Radcliffe presented town residents with this agreement negotiated with Unimin, but many who attended the Aug. 15 meeting when Radcliffe explained the agreement feel that the town could use several leverage points to negotiate more effectively. Click here for YouTube videos of that meeting.
Sandblasted Stories

A long-time resident finds his home is now worth half what it had been; a veteran of the Iraq war and his wife -- also a veteran--moves their young family into their dream home. Now they face the nightmare of fugitive silica dust and what it means for their small children. Read more …

Wind Farms.. Sand Mines?

The town of Ridgeville successfully stopped a windmill farm. They were in a slightly different situation--they were zoned.

But we can learn from their success.

First: when they instituted their zoning ordinance, instead of spending $25,000 on a comprehensive study--one reason Greenfield shied away from zoning--they spent $300. They formed a committee, got a few templates and did it themselves.

Secondly: they based their opposition on health concerns.

Visit the "Learn About Silica" section on this website. The most dangerous silica dust is invisible and travels long distances. If you live in Tomah, you are downwind. Got kids in school in Tomah? Own property there? Sell real estate? This mine will impact you.

Talk to your city council members and your county board supervisors.

Want to pitch in? Email info@tunnelcitysandmine.org. We are looking for talent and energy!
Support This Licensing Agreement

A hard-working group of your neighbors has come up with a licensing proposal for the township.
This is important. Your best bet for protection is at the town level. Read this agreement drafted by the town of Howard here . It is a model for the town of Greenfield to follow.

This is not the agreement that has gone before the Wisconsin Supreme Court--that is the Cooks Valley case. To read more about that, click here.

Meanwhile, contact your town representatives!

Gail Chapman. 343-6164, Greenfield's supervisor on the County Board

Stephen P. Witt, town chair, Steve Witt tcdist@centurytel.net
372-7338
P.O. Box 23, Tunnel City 54662

Town Supervisors :

Scott Berg
20254 Denton Ave. Tomah 54660
374-4366

Gary Shutter
10664 County Hwy. E, Tomah 54660
372-2499
Waking Up And Finding Yourself Surrounded by a Sand Mine

The people of the town of Greenfield woke up in late June to find themselves sandblasted! They learned that Unimin, the nation's largest sand mining company that is part of a global conglomerate, had quietly bought 500 acres of land so it can build its largest sand mine here. It bought the land not under its own name, but another--to throw off competitors, it says, not to deceive local residents.

To read more about that informational meeting, click here.
Bird's Eye View of a Wisconsin Sand Mine

Below: bird's-eye view of Menomonie, Wis., sand mine by Jim Tittle, Nice Pictures. Click
here for more of his videos of sand mines and the people who live with them. They talk about how the Maiden City mine actually costs the municipality money and how to organize against a mine.