There are no official employment figures for the frac-sand industry, but Kate Prengaman of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism used job-site estimates to calculate that when current and proposed mines are fully operational, the industry will employ about 2,780 people. The number of permitted and proposed frac-sand mines has doubled to 106 since last year, but sand isn't "instant money," Prengaman reports. It's expensive to transport, and local officials are charging sand companies for wear and tear on roads. The state Department of Transportation estimates the industry could produce about 50 million tons of sand a year, Prengaman reports.
Some residents are concerned sand mining will hurt air and water quality, local infrastructure and tourism. They have mounted protests and lawsuits to combat alleged wrongdoing by the industry. Local officials and industry representatives say sand mining will help local economies and increase jobs, echoing local battles in other parts of the country surrounding gas drilling. (Read more)