The proposed silica mine obtains a state permit but faces Ste. Genevieve County Roadblock | Regional
JEFFERSON CITY — A newly formed silica sand mining company on Thursday won a key state permit for its site in Ste. Genevieve County, but a county health order remains in the way of business.
On the same day, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources granted NexGen Silica a strip mining license, the company sued the Ste. Genevieve County Commission and the Ste. Genevieve County Circuit Court in an attempt to overturn the county’s order.
Last week’s actions were the latest developments in a months-long fight between NexGen Silica and residents who live near the proposed mine.
Opponents have raised concerns about possible effects on local wells and air quality in and around the site, which is miles from public lands such as the State Park of Hawn.
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The residents’ group, called Operation Sand, had pushed the County Commission to approve the health ordinance in May to thwart the mine proposal.
One of the leaders of Operation Sand, Jillian Ditch, said Tuesday that she was not surprised that the Department of Natural Resources issued an open-pit mining permit to NexGen.
“Operation Sand and I believe in the health order,” Ditch said. “We know it is solid and valid and will be upheld in court.”
Circuit Judge Timothy Inman was assigned to the case on Friday but recused himself the same day.
The company’s 47-page lawsuit argues that the ordinance is “pre-empted by the laws of Missouri, was passed using faulty and unlawful procedure, and is unconstitutional.”
He says “the order prohibits Nexgen from constructing and operating its sand mine operation.”
Nexgen Silica intends to produce frac sand and/or industrial sands, moving the materials for transport on the Mississippi River to Ste. Genevieve, the company said in April.
While frac sand is used in natural gas drilling, industrial sand has a wide range of applications, from glass to computer chips, said Clark Bollinger, chief executive of Nexgen Silica, at the time.
The company and the Department of Natural Resources held an hour-long public meeting on May 19 where residents and other opponents raised concerns, including about light and noise pollution.
“The director does not have jurisdiction over all concerns raised by the public when reviewing an application for industrial mining,” Land Reclamation Program director Larry Lehman wrote to officer Roger Faulkner. recorded from NexGen, Thursday. .
Lehman said the state permit does not replace any local requirements the company must meet. The proposed mine is approximately one hour south of Saint-Louis.
“Licensee is required to comply with all applicable environmental laws and regulations enforced by the Department,” Lehman told the company.
MNR responded to residents’ concerns in an attachment to the land reclamation permit it issued, including potential damage to public lands.
At one point, the DNR said the Missouri Department of Conservation provided a heritage review report for the site. The state said there were no records of federal or state endangered species in the nominated area.
But the Department of Conservation had records for 53 species – ranging from “uncommon but not rare” to “critically imperiled in the state” – within 5 miles of the site.
“This does not indicate that these species are also present at the site, but it is not certain that they are not,” the document states.
The ministry has also sought to address watershed concerns.
“Nexgen’s proposed site is within the Settlement Creek watershed, as is the Hickory Canyons Natural Area,” the document states. “Pickle Springs, Hawn State Park and Horton Farms Conservation Area are all within the Vases River watershed.
“This should mean that water on Nexgen property will not flow to Pickle Springs or Hawn,” the state said. “Although Hickory Canyons is in the same watershed, there is a ridge that separates the two properties. Runoff from each property should flow to its own individual branches of Establishment Creek.
The initial licensed site is approximately 115 acres, according to the state, although the total mining plan area is 249 acres.
The business must also obtain additional state permits.
The Department of Natural Resources, in a fact sheet on the proposed project, said NexGen cannot “engage in any activity covered by the land reclamation program permit without a wastewater treatment permit. “.
“Since Nexgen has declared its intention to process the sandstone on-site, they will also require a permit from the Department’s Air Pollution Control Program,” the state said.