Students Visit Local Frac Sand Mine

Posted on December 5th, 2012 by

Human geography students donned safety goggles and hardhats to visit the Unimin mining operation in Kasota. The trip offered students a chance to witness mining in action and see the interplay of global forces, local geomorphology, and textbook economic geography locational considerations. Unimin is a Belgium-based company with mines on all seven continents. Their Kasota, Minnesota operation is visible from the Gustavus campus and is dedicated to mining silica frac sand for the oil and natural gas extraction industry. Unimin’s Ottawa, Minnesota operation also mines silica sand for local customers such as glass-makers, sandpaper manufacturers, and foundries. Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is used in new horizontal drilling techniques that have led to rapid growth in oil and natural gas production in places like North Dakota’s Bakken Formation. Frac sand plays an essential role in fracking by propping open by the fractures so oil or natural gas can flow to the well. The local Jordan Sandstone, called “Ottawa White,” is the first choice of oil drillers. Frac sand mining has been in the newsrecently because of environment and quality of life concerns related to proposed new frac sand mines in southeast Minnesota and Wisconsin. Because the local Kasota and Ottawa mines are located along the Union Pacific railroad tracks,  the sand is shipped by rail to oil and gas wells in Oklahoma and Texas rather than North Dakota.

The GEG-101 class on their tour of the Unimin Kasota Mine.


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