A number of organizations recently teamed up to collaborate on a five-year, $232,000 study examining the best ways to reclaim Wisconsin tracts originally used for nonmetallic mining. Chippewa County officials, the University and Wisconsin-River Falls and several mining companies will take part in the study, reported Alison Dirr of the Wisconsin Center for Journalism.
The initiative will focus on Chippewa County, where over 80 mining projects are currently taking place or planned for the near future. The area is experiencing a mining boom, particularly in the frac sand sector. According to a recent Economic Modeling Specialists Inc. white paper, more than $161 million will be invested in new frac sand plants and transport facilities in the state within the next few years. In Wood County alone, these projects will create approximately $1.5 million in new county and local government revenues within the first year, as well as an additional $2.6 million in annual revenues for the next eight years.
The study will be aimed at preventing adverse issues that can occur if sites are not reclaimed. Tom Hunt, University of Wisconsin-Platteville reclamation professor, said these problems can include serious human health and safety concerns, as well as environmental impacts. For example, unclaimed sites can become dumping grounds causing mass pollution, an area for invasive or undesirable species to inhabit or an unstable zone creating safety hazards.
Study participants will look to recover the environment in sites vacated by mining organizations, including cultivating the vegetation and dry soil. As different locations feature an array of soil properties, the reclaimed areas could be used for a range of purposes, Dirr stated.
"We're going to have a very valuable dataset on soil health, vegetative success and biological characteristics, and I hope that data will inform future reclamation decisions," said Holly Dolliver, UW-River Falls associate professor.
Wisconsin frac sand mining market
Currently, the state boasts the top producing region for sand used in hydraulic fracturing. Dirr reported that there are 124 frac sand mines in Wisconsin. Hunt noted that this trend is set to continue and local governments should prepare for an influx of permit applications.
Businesses looking to take part in this market activity need to ensure that their critical machinery is up to the task of frac sand mining. To oversee the service life and overall health of key systems, mining organizations can implement equipment monitoring technology. Such arrangements provide opportunities for predictive preventive maintenance, a key strategy for boosting equipment reliability and functionality.