Recently an economic study regarding the effects of industrial scale sand mining on communities’ economies was released and widely reported on. Authored by Dr. Thomas Powers, it showed that the benefits of Frac sand mining in the local economy will be minimal to nonexistent. Though this particular report got a lot of attention, it certainly is not the only study to clearly show the ill effects of large scale mining on small town America.
Just last year the University of Wisconsin, Madison released a comprehensive report on the effects of nonferrous (sand) mining, inspired by the sand mining boom in Wisconsin. The report “Frac Sand Mining and Community Development.”
(Prof. Steven Deller & A. Schreiber) drew on dozens of peer-review original studies, conducted over fifty years. It reported on both economic and other social effects where nonferrous (non-metal) mining has taken place.
The economic results just reinforce the findings widely reported in Dr. Power’s study. Mining is an unstable “Boom and Bust” industry that is using fewer and fewer people to extract the material the mine is after. It specifically pointed out the growing pool of “Resource Curse” literature which finds economic growth and development from resource extraction to be the rare exception and not the rule.
Some other surprising non-economic findings in the report include the facts that communities with industrial scale mining tend to have a population with lower educational levels, higher shares of the population in poor to fair physical and mental health, and higher rates of smoking. Why this is, the authors do not say or guess at, suggesting the need for future research. But that these are the results of industrial scale mining on a community as determined by over 50 years of research conducted all over the United States by dozens of Universities public and private, cannot be easily dismissed. In the end, the message is clear. If we invite an industrial scale Silica Sand Mine into our community, we will probably regret it in many different ways.