Over the past few years industrial sand mining has expanded rapidly throughout western Wisconsin and at a slower pace in southeastern Minnesota, introducing new forms of environmental and social change to the region. These mines produce a special type of silica sand that is used as a raw material in hydraulic fracturing ('fracking'), a method of drilling for natural gas and oil.

Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies have enabled access to hydrocarbon deposits contained in shale rock formations located in Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, North Dakota, Utah, Denver, Texas, and other parts of the country. Rapid development of drilling in these regions has generated increased demand for 'frac sand.'

Frac sand is pumped deep into a well with water and chemicals and props open tiny fractures created in the shale bedrock, allowing hydrocarbons to flow into the well and back to the surface. A typical well requires between 1,500 and 2000 tons of sand. Hundreds of thousands of wells are active throughout the United States.

Government Reports and Websites 
Non-Governmental Organization Reports
News Reports and Websites
The last few years has seen a constant stream of news reports about frac sand. Below, I include articles that provide a general overview of the issues. Other sections of this blog include news reports that focus on more specific dimensions or impacts of frac sand mining. 

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism ( maintains a project page focused on Wisconsin's sand rush. It includes an ongoing series of stories, primers, maps, and databases on the frac sand mining industry in Wisconsin. Excellent resource!

Progressive Media, Blogs, and Citizen Perspectives


Frac sand facilities in WI, July 2012.
Source: Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Frac sand facilities in WI, July 2011.
Source: Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Source: Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, August 2012

Glaser mine & processing plant, in Auburn, Chippewa County, WI,
operated by Superior Silica Sands, based out of Kosse, TX.
Photograph by Thomas Pearson, July 19, 2013. 

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