The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has shut down a Houston County silica sand mine in accordance with a 2013 state law.
In a letter dated July 25 and delivered to mine owner Tracie Erickson by a conservation officer three days later, the agency stated that the mine will need a setback permit from MNDNR in order to resume operations. That’s because the site is within one mile of a designated trout stream (Ferndale Brook).
The mine had been embroiled in legal skirmishing with Houston County while its conditional use permit (CUP) expired. The county subsequently decided that the renewal was held in abeyance (and did not actually expire) while the lawsuit over greatly expanding the intensity of the operation for frac sand production was settled. The county board finally renewed the CUP (returning the mine to its original scope and production levels) on June 24.
That interpretation does not appear to have been accepted by MNDNR, which told Erickson that “due to the lapse in your conditional use permit, subsequently reinstated by the county, your mining qualifies as a new project and is subject to the setback permit requirement.”
The setback permitting process includes several steps, including a hydrogeological evaluation with at least one year of monitoring of springs and “other significant water features” before the application can be accepted. In addition, a financial assurance bond would be required. The letter warns that the results of the hydrogeological evaluation could result in a buffer of up to a mile from the stream that would preclude mining.
The missive also reminds Erickson that MNDNR originally sent him a letter on April 16, stating that the mine will require a setback permit because of the trout stream. Neighboring landowners reportedly alerted MNDNR that the mine had resumed operations after the CUP was granted, in spite of that document.