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Town of Howard: How far could that sand mine go?

By LeAnn R. Ralph

TOWN OF HOWARD —  Sand mine companies in the Town of Howard will now have to include information in their application for a mine operator’s license about future plans for mining adjoining property.

The Howard Town Board amended the township’s mine operator’s licensing ordinance at the September 2 meeting to require applicants to include a timetable and a plan indicating the anticipated nonmetallic mining operation for adjoining property under the ownership or the control of the sand mine company or the individual applying for a mining license.

The ordinance amendment applies to any property that is under the control of the sand mine operator — either purchased property or leased property — at the time the application is submitted, said Dennis Dvoracek, town board supervisor.

“Any property under their control at that time that could be mined in the future,” he said.

“It would be a total site plan,” said Tom Zwiefelhofer, town board supervisor.

The timetable and the plans for mining adjoining property must be submitted at the same time the applicant is applying for a license to actively mine a particular piece of property, Dvoracek said.

“We want to know how much contiguous (land could be mined) — what they may mine at a future date,” he said.

Dvoracek pointed out that just because a mining company identifies adjoining property as part of the future plans for a sand mine does not mean the town board will automatically approve a mine operator’s license for the additional property.

“The rule of diminishing assets does not apply to licensing, only to zoning. We can deny expansion under licensing,” he said.

The Town of Howard is an unzoned township.

If the town board approves a mining license for a specific piece of property, the company cannot automatically continue expanding and mining under Howard’s licensing ordinance, Zwiefelhofer said.

The Howard Town Board unanimously approved the amendment to the mine operator’s licensing ordinance requiring applicants to submit a timetable and a plan for adjoining property under the ownership or control of the applicant.

EOG Resources currently operates the S&S mine in the Town of Howard on county Highway B.

Paul van Eijl of Northern Sands is planning to submit an application to Chippewa County for a reclamation permit that could be finalized by December for another sand mine in the Town of Howard.

Van Eijl has said that the second sand mine in the Town of Howard could include as much as 2,000 acres.

The Town of Howard requires applicants for a mining license to have a reclamation permit from Chippewa County first before the Howard Town Board will consider an application for a license.

When asked about an anticipated timetable for the Northern Sands mine, Vernon Schindler, town chair, said he could not give an answer because it took 14 months to negotiate the mining agreement with EOG Resources.


Gerald Eder, Town of Howard resident, wondered if it would be possible for the Howard Town Board to assess a tipping fee per ton of sand mined in the township.

Zwiefelhofer said that Howard’s attorney has told them the township cannot assess a tipping fee.

The Town of Sioux Creek receives several hundred thousand dollars annually from sand mining, Eder said.

The mine in Howard is not using town roads to mine sand, Schindler said.

If the Town of Howard could find a way to get income from the sand mines, the money could be used to help residents whose wells have gone bad or who have sustained property damage as a result of sand mining, Eder said.

If the township received money from the sand mines, town residents could have their problems fixed right away without the time and expense of hiring an attorney, he said.

Dvoracek said he could ask the town’s attorney about it when he consulted the attorney about other matters related to sand mining.

According to a draft of a 2013 report titled “Transportation Impacts of Frac Sand Mining in the Mid-America Freight Region: Chippewa County Case Study,” frac sand sells for $100 to $400 per ton at the oil drilling sites.

If a sand mine produces a half million tons of sand per year, that would mean sales of between $50 million and $200 million annually.