Maiden Rock mine to reopen?
Conditional Use Permit renewed by Pierce County LMC
The Wisconsin Industrial Sand Company may be planning to reopen its silica sand mine in Maiden Rock, if market conditions allow.
The Pierce County Land Management Committee unanimously approved a request for a conditional use permit renewal for a nonmetallic mining operation at its July 21 meeting. WISC is the owner and agent for Wisconsin Frac Sand Inc., John and Marjorie Kralewski Family Partnership, Dean and Mary Holden, Edmund and Dawn Daleiden, William and JoAnn Steele, Jeffrey and Kelly Von Holtum, and Schaul’s Gas Inc.
The WISC mine (located at W3302 Highway 35, Maiden Rock) encompasses about 2,077 acres; about 1,587 acres of that are located in the town of Maiden Rock. Of those acres, approximately 370 acres have been mined to date.
Due to market conditions, the mine shut down in April 2016, but reopened in January 2017. It shut down again in May 2019 and has been closed since. When it closed, 46 people worked at the mine, which operated 24 hours a day, five days per week. The goal when it reopens is to employ 70 people working 24 hours a day, seven days per week, according to a Land Management Committee memo.
Since the mine closed, WISC staff has been required to visit the site routinely to maintain the grounds and building, to inspect escapeways, perform spill prevention and storm water pollution inspections, sample wells, analyze slope stability, and perform quarterly safety and stormwater discharge inspections.
The Town of Maiden Rock has had no complaints about the mine, Zoning Specialist Adam Adank said. However, it has had tough time reaching anyone at WISC and would like a representative at the next town board meeting.
County Board Chair Jeff Holst directed WISC to get in touch with the township immediately.
“It’s inexcusable that if they’ve been trying to reach you, they haven’t had heard back,” Holst said to Operations Regional General Manager Reid Gronski. “WISC has had a history of being responsive to the community, and I would hate to see that tarnished or blemished.”
Gronski said he’s not “immediately aware” of any communication attempts by the town, but will make sure they have the correct contact information.
“We are hopeful to recommission the operation as soon as possible,” Gronski said.
The Journal reached out to Gronski for comment, but had not heard back at press time.
All Department of Natural Resources permits have been kept active in the event the mine would reopen, which is zoned agriculture-residential.
According to Adank’s memo to LMC members, some issues pertaining to the request are:
•WISC creates tunnels by blasting and used a room and pillar mining method. The mining blasting and washing takes place underground. Any surface activity is limited to the processing plant in the village limits.
•The land currently has agricultural, residential and undeveloped uses with four wells on-site. Three are high-capacity wells capable of pumping 1,000 gallons of water per minute.
•Recent mining activity took place at about 800-830 feet; the water table elevation mapped in this area is about 750 feet.
•When the mine operated, blasting took place three to four days a week, around 5:30 p.m.
•The DNR and others regulate many mining activities. This regulatory authority originated in mining laws and environmental statutes. For example, primary authority for stormwater runoff regulation, impacts to navigable waterways and high-capacity wells rests with the DNR and other state agencies, but is not included in mining laws.
•WISC submitted a groundwater response plan for the facility that addresses the source and use of groundwater in the facility, plus measures to protect water quality. Two transducers and data loggers continuously measure and record groundwater elevations in two residential water supply wells located in the permitted mining area.
•The Pierce County LMC had ordered WISC to develop a Damage Response Plan jointly with an ad hoc citizens committee, but no agreement was reached regarding draft parameters. The town of Maiden Rock approved the plan at their April 10, 2013 meeting.
•While county staff hasn’t received concerns and complaints about this renewal request, in the past citizens expressed concern about health effects of silica in the air, depletion of the aquifer, contamination of the aquifer and surface water, blasting effects on wells and structures and potential decreases in property values.
Ultimately, LMC staff recommended the LMC renew the CUP with the following conditions:
•Blasting shall occur up to seven days a week with no time limit unless complaints are received. If people complain, previous time restrictions will be reinstated. Blasting cannot occur before 5 a.m. up to four times per week, including Saturday.
•When blasting takes place, comprehensive water testing will be conducted annually for residential wells located within the mined area. Wells that fall within 1,000 feet of the mined area on properties without mineral rights leases will be tested twice a year for suspended solids, nitrates and dissolved solids and chlorides.
•A 100-foot buffer must be maintained between active mining and non-leased properties. Mining beneath a leased property must be at least 100 feet from any well.
•Compliance reports must be submitted to LMC.
•Any use changes will require an amended CUP.
•The mine must provide town of Maiden Rock with a facility map that includes areas of future expansion.
•Any erosion issues must be addressed to county’s satisfaction.
•A facility and underground tunnels map must be updated annually and submitted.
•The permit expires in two years.
• A report must be submitted each year showing adherence to LMC conditions.
• The mine must follow the Damage Claim Response Plan, approved by town of Maiden Rock.
•The mine must adhere to the township’s recommendations/ comments from a Jan. 19, 2011 public hearing:
•WISC must establish a historical average for each private well they’re mandated to test. That information must be shared with the wells’ owners along with an explanation of what the data means.
•WISC must set up a monitoring system that tests the air from the air shafts before and after blasts in the mine.
•No new portals can be built in the town and WISC is not allowed to build more than three air shafts for this permit.
• WISC is subject to control methods deemed adequate by LMC for silica emissions, if current or future studies suggest a significant public health threat exists.
• A fugitive dust plan must be implemented and followed for the processing facility and submitted to the Zoning Office.
•The mine must notify the county if it receives any “cease and desist” orders from MSHA.
•All polyacrylamide flocculants must be used consistently with DNR permit requirements.
•No ventilation shafts or secondary access portals can be developed until reviewed by the township and approved by the LMC.