Fracking sand mining harms communities, greens say

The boom in hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas could increase the demand for a harmful form of mining, environmentalists said.

Fracking requires sand, which is pumped into the ground at high pressure to hold open cracks in shale and help bring oil and gas out.


Mining for the sand has already exploded in Wisconsin and could spread from Maine to Iowa, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday, citing a study by environmentalists.

“The rapid expansion in the United States of oil and shale gas drilling, including hydraulic fracturing, has a hidden side filled with problems: the mining of the special sand that is essential to fracking a drilled well,” Grant Smith, one of the authors, told the Times.

The authors of the study argue that the mining process is harmful in a number of ways, and local towns have pushed to stop it.

The process involves large volumes of water, often more than municipal sewer systems can handle.

Mining companies use polyacrylamide to get debris off the sand, but the chemical can break down into acrylamide, a carcinogen, the environmentalists said.

Mining can also put fine particles into the air, such as silica dust, which is dangerous to inhale, the Times reported.

Almost 58,000 people live within a half mile of sand mines or related sites, the Times said.