Frac sand mine

Preferred Sands' mine near Blair, Wis., is part of a non-metallic mining boom that has made Wisconsin the nation's leading producer of sand used in hydraulic fracturing.

Lukas Keapproth, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

“The Price of Sand,” a documentary on the booming frac sand mining industry in Wisconsin and Minnesota, airs at 10 p.m. Friday on Wisconsin Public Television (Ch. 21).

Directed by St. Paul, Minn., native Jim Tittle, the film highlights the quick growth of the frac sand industry in the two states. More than 125 frac sand mines and processing plants have been built in Wisconsin in the past five years.

The film highlights the impact of the industry on the price of farmland and the divisions it has created in communities across both states.

The Cap Times has closely covered one such conflict over frac sand mining. In August of 2013, citizens in the small town of Bridgeport in Crawford County were able to stop one frac sand mine from being built in the state-protected Lower Wisconsin Riverway. The mine still opened, just not in the protected area.

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Around that same time, the Trempealeau County board passed a moratorium on new permits. The county has the most mines in Wisconsin.

Silica sand is mined and exported to states to North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas where it is used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The tough, crystallized sand, unique to the Wisconsin-Minnesota area, is hard enough to break through rock and release natural gas.