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More boreholes drilled for Albertville Valley sand mine

By LeAnn R. Ralph

TOWN OF HOWARD  —  After filling in 25 boreholes this summer in the area of the proposed Albertville Valley sand mine, Red Flint Group has drilled an additional six boreholes to prospect for frac sand.

Red Flint Group/Northern Sands wanted to do more test borings and filled out an application for the Town of Howard’s mine exploration license, said Susan Haake, town clerk, at the Howard Town Board’s November 3 meeting.

The proposed Albertville Valley sand mine would be located a few miles southeast of Colfax and is expected to involve a little more than 1,300 acres all together.

Eric Suvada, the township’s borehole inspector, reported that a total of six boreholes had been drilled at a depth of 60 to 90 feet.

The boreholes have all been filled in with bentonite, he said.

The application for a mine exploration license was submitted by Bridget Kelly of Red Flint Group. Kraemer Mining & Materials, Inc. out of Burnsville, Minnesota, is listed as the operator the exploration operation, and Northern Sands LLC out of Winona, Minnesota, is listed as the owner of the land or the company leasing the land.

When companies prospect for frac sand, boreholes are drilled to determine the location and depth of the sand deposits.

In the six holes that were drilled, “they never hit water,” Suvada said.

Chippewa County allows non-metallic mining to within ten feet of the groundwater.

The groundwater at the Schindler and Sikora mine on county Highway B in the Town of Howard reportedly was in a different location than had originally been identified, which reduced by half the number of tons of frac sand available for mining.

Additional drilling

According to the application for an exploration license, between ten and 20 additional boreholes would be drilled between October 15 and November 15.

At the Howard Town Board’s May 5 meeting, 23 boreholes had been identified, and the following property owners were reported to have boreholes on their land: James and Rebecca Kiesow (1); James and Lee Jensen (4); Jensen Lands LLC (4); Lee and Jean Jensen (1); Alan and Judith Grossmeier (1); Eugene and Sharon Buck (1); Olav and Gail Svee (2); Donald and Colleen Schwartz (2); Robert and Lana Christoffel (1); Ronald Anderson et al (2); Dan Rothbauer DR Acres (2); Robert and Karla Rasmussen Trust (3); John and Nan Bethmann (2).

The earlier holes were drilled by Northern Sands to prospect for frac sand in the Town of Howard in November and December of 2013 and in June of 2014 but were never properly filled until Red Flint Group became involved in the project.

Representatives for Red Flint reported at the town board’s August meeting that 25 boreholes had been located and filled.

The latest round of boreholes includes the following landowners: Ronald J. Anderson et al (39 acres and 40 acres); Daniel Rothbauer/DR Acres LLC (39 acres and 20 acres); Daniel and Michelle Rothbauer (20 acres); Kenneth and Sue Anderson (40 acres); and Daniel Geissler (30 acres).

The Town of Howard’s mine exploration license application requires landowners to sign the application, indicating they are aware boreholes are going to be drilled, and all landowners did, in fact, sign the application.

Prior to the Howard Town Board adopting the mine exploration license, several town residents reported that boreholes had been drilled on their land without their permission.


But while state law requires the drill holes to be properly abandoned to prevent contaminants from reaching the groundwater or to keep unsuspecting creatures (such as pets, wildlife, farm animals, and human beings) from falling into the holes, the job sometimes is left undone or is not done properly.

The Howard Town Board approved a non-metallic mine exploration ordinance in October of 2014, and the ordinance applies to the drilling of one of more boreholes to a depth of ten feet or more.

The exploration application must include a certified survey map and parcel identification numbers, dates when the exploration will start and when it will conclude, the number of boreholes that will be drilled and the fee established by the Town of Howard to cover the township’s administrative costs.

The Howard Town Board established a borehole licensing fee of $250 and an inspection fee of $15 per drillhole.

Prospectors who drill a borehole with no license will face a fine of $1,500 per hole.

The fees established by the Howard Town Board include $500 per hole if the prospector fails to properly abandon the boreholes.

The application for the mine exploration license did not contain any information about why the company wanted to drill additional boreholes for the Albertville Valley sand mine.

Possibilities could include wanting to expand the size of the mine or desiring to mine frac sand in less-environmentally sensitive areas.

The proposed Albertville Valley sand mine includes two different watersheds that drain to different bodies of water: Eighteen Mile Creek/Red Cedar River and Elk Creek/Chippewa River.


Vernon Schindler, chair of the Howard Town Board, reported that Red Flint Group had not yet submitted a revised reclamation plan to Chippewa County Land Conservation and Forest Management.

Schindler announced at the October 6 meeting that Northern Sands/Red Flint Group had asked Chippewa County for a 60-day extension on the reclamation permit.

Chippewa County Land Conservation and Forest Management held a public hearing on the reclamation plan for the Albertville Valley sand mine July 29.

The 60-day extension for the reclamation plan changed the deadline until November 19 for Chippewa County to approve or deny the reclamation plan.

Seth Ebel of Chippewa County Land Conservation and Forest Management confirmed in an e-mail message to the Colfax Messenger in October that the company was asking for an extension.

“The purpose of the extension is to allow Northern Sands to address issues raised in the public hearing regarding the adequacy of the plan in addressing the reclamation standards and requirements contained in Wisconsin Administrative Code NR135 and the Chippewa County nonmetallic mining reclamation ordinance,” Ebel said.

“Any subsequent changes to the permit application made by Northern Sands will be posted on our website at the time a permit decision is made by Chippewa County,” he said.

“I was told they had a few hurdles to go over yet,” Schindler said at the November 3 meeting.

The “hurdles” could add another two weeks to a month to the amount of time it will take to revise the reclamation plan, Schindler said.

The Howard Town Board meets next on December 1.