By MARK EVANS
STE. GENEVIEVE HERALD
With the clock ticking on the permitting process between the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Nexgen Silica for a possible silica sand mining operation in Ste. Genevieve County, opponents are again becoming vocal.
The DNR is expected to decide whether to grant the permit to begin mining operations on a 249-acre tract of land in the county on June 30.
During an interview with Regional Radio News, Larry Lehman, director of the DNR’s Land Reclamation, called the review process for this operation “pretty substantial.”
He noted that the review would not be limited to his staff.
“If we feel there is a particular item that needs further review, we will reach out to other areas of the department to help us provide feedback,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Missouri Sierra Club has come out against the sand mining operation.
“The proposed silica sand mine threatens air and water pollution at our state’s beloved Hawn State Park and the Hickory Canyons Natural Area, the area’s watershed, and one of Missouri’s finest natural area corridors,” read an email sent by Marisa Frazier, club conservation Program coordinator, in an email to Bill Zeaman, of the DNR’s Land Reclamation Program.
It also gave away the club’s long-term agenda.
“This project also likely supports fossil fuel use,” the email said. “Silica sand is sold to oil and gas companies who use it to prop open cracks made in the fracking process. At a time when it is critical that we collectively shift away from fossil fuels, it is completely irresponsible to begin a 50-year project that bolsters the fossil fuel industry.”
The 839-word email urged the DNR to “step back and deny this permit,” since the county health department had issued an ordinance mirroring the county commission’s ordinance, placing limits on all future silica sand mining operations.
The email laid out dangers the club feels the mine would cause.
“This proposed silica sand mine would also cause major harm to the surrounding community which benefits from tourists drawn to this prized natural corridor,” it said. “Pollution, whether from the noise, the air, the water, or light pollution ruining the view of the night sky, will reduce visitors to Hawn State Park, Hickory Canyon Natural Area, and Pickle Springs. This would harm local businesses and reduce tax revenue, affecting schools and social services.”
It also downplayed the economic benefit of the operation, calling it “unsustainable and often disconnected from the rest of the local economy.” It also suggested that “technological improvements mean fewer workers are hired as the years go on, and more profits are hoarded by the executives and corporations that own the mines.”
RESIDENTS HAVE NEW CONCERNS
Meanwhile, Jillian Ditch Anslow and Leigh Ditch, who have been leading Operation Sand’s fight against the mine, visited last Thursday’s county commission meeting – their first visit in a few weeks.
They asked whether there was any way to find out what was going on on the property in question.
They were concerned about rumors that logging was going on at the site. They also expressed concerns that Nexgen Silica might jump the gun and actually start mining operations before a permit was received.
“As long as they’re not mining, they’re not breaking any laws,” Presiding Commissioner Garry Nelson told them.
Told of the concern about starting mining operations early, Roger Faulkner, one of the Nexgen general partners, was adamant that Nexgen would follow all rules.
“We won’t do anything until we get all of our permitting,” Faulkner said Friday. “We’re mot going to do anything until we make sure we have everything squared with the county.”