Kraemer/EOG Resources drilling up to 30 more boreholes for frac sand in Howard

By LeAnn R. Ralph

TOWN OF HOWARD  —  Kraemer Mining & Materials Inc., the company operating the Schindler-Sikora frac sand mine in the Town of Howard, could eventually drill up to 30 new exploratory boreholes.

The Kraemer Company has submitted two applications for borehole licenses, reported Susan Haake, town clerk, at the Town of Howard’s January 3 meeting. 

The Kraemer Company operates the Schindler-Sikora frac sand mine for EOG Resources and has done so since 2011, said Kris Anderson, technical services manager with Kraemer.

The additional boreholes will be drilled at the Schindler-Sikora mine and also south of the existing mine, he said. 

As of January 3, six boreholes had been drilled, two had already been filled in according to the procedure outlined in state law and the Town of Howard’s borehole licensing ordinance, and four more were expected to be filled the next day, Anderson said.

All together, Kraemer is expecting to drill between 15 and 30 additional boreholes looking for frac sand, he said.

According to maps submitted with the borehole license applications, the holes will be drilled on parcels north of county Highway B in Chippewa County and west of 52nd Avenue as well as on parcels south of Highway B. 

Because of sub-zero temperatures for the rest of the first week in January, no more boreholes were expected to be drilled until the following week, Anderson said.

When it is cold, the compressor and the hands of operators do not work as well, he noted.

The exact number of new boreholes will depend on what is found in the two locations outlined on the license application, Anderson said.

Kraemer is working on developing additional “products” involving frac said, he said.

The new boreholes are strictly exploratory right now, but when the sand mine comes back on-line and if new property is added, Kraemer will work with the Howard Town Board on mutually-agreeable terms for the non-metallic mine license agreement, Anderson said.

“If we add a property to the SS mine, we know we will have to work with the board on a licensing agreement,” he said, adding that the sand mine operators intend to be “good neighbors” just as they have been in the past.

“We do not know where this is going right now,” Anderson said.

Sand mining “will probably be a booming business again in a year or two,” said Vernon Schindler, chair of the Howard Town Board.

License

The application for an exploration license in the Town of Howard is required to include the name, address, telephone number and e-mail address of the operator of the mine exploration operation, and the name, address, telephone number and e-mail address of all owners or lessors of the land on which the exploration will occur.

In addition, the application must include written proof that the landowner has consented to the exploration and has consented to inspections by the Town of Howard.

The application must also 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 Kraemer applications for a mine exploration license indicates eight parcels on the first application and six parcels on the second application.

The letter included with the first application to grant authority and permission for drilling the exploratory boreholes is addressed to, and signed by, Charles P. and Frances M. Schindler.

The second application indicates that Kraemer Mining & Materials is the owner and lessor of the land but does not indicate any other land owners.

In October of 2014, the Howard Town Board established a borehole licensing fee of $250 and 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 exploration license ordinance applies to the drilling of one of more boreholes to a depth of ten feet or more.

Borehole problems

Prior to adopting the borehole licensing ordinance, the Town of Howard had received reports from area residents that frac sand prospectors had opened boreholes and then left them open.

Landowners also reported to the town board that there were boreholes on their property, but they had not given permission to anyone to prospect for frac sand. 

The concern about boreholes left open is that unsuspecting people, wildlife or livestock could step in one of the holes and break a leg or that the borehole could allow contaminants to get into the groundwater.

Albertville

All together, 13 sand mines covering a little more than 3,700 acres have received approval in Chippewa County, and the Town of Howard has two of the 13 sand mines: the Schindler-Sikora mine  (185 acres) and the Northern Sands Albertville Valley sand mine (1,310 acres).

The Albertville Valley sand mine has not yet started operations and would need a non-metallic mining permit from the Town of Howard before sand mining could start. 

In the nonmetallic mine reclamation permit issued by the Chippewa County Department of Land Conservation and Forest Management in November of 2015, Northern Sands was required for the Albertville Valley mine to complete an assessment of the biological resources at the mine site along with an inventory of the seeps, springs, wetlands and surface waters located within the mine boundary and the adjacent properties.

The location for the Albertville Valley sand mine is a few miles southeast of Colfax. 

The proposed mine site stretches north and south along the Chippewa County and Dunn County line directly east of the intersection of county Highway N and county Highway A.

The mine site is expected to include a wet processing plant, a dry processing plant, rail car storage area and a rail loading facility.

One complicating factor for the Albertville Valley sand mine is that the location involves two different watersheds, one for Elk Creek, which drains to the Chippewa River, and one for Eighteen Mile Creek, which drains to the Red Cedar River.

The deadline for submitting the reports to Chippewa County had originally been July 31, 2016, but the  deadline was extended to December 31, 2017, along with the requirement that the work be started on the assessments and inventories by October 15, 2016.

According to Dan Masterpole of Chippewa County Land Conservation and Forest Management, Northern Sands has started work on the necessary assessments in the Town of Howard.

In September of 2016, Masterpole said he had received notification that a Long Island engineering company had been hired as as the prime consultant for the Red Flint Group.

The Albertville Valley mine will be operated by Red Flint.

The “plan of work” for the assessments was received at Chippewa County Land Conservation and Forest Management on October 14, Masterpole said.