Minnesota Supreme Court upholds Winona County ban on frac sand mining, A sand mine business argued that the ban was unconstitutional, but had lost earlier rulings before appealing to the high court by Matt McKinney, Mar 11, 2020, Star Tribune
The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday let stand a Winona County ban on frac sand mining, disagreeing with a local sand mine business that the 2016 ban was an infringement of their rights.
The ruling ends a four-year legal battle between the Winona County Board and the sand mine business, Minnesota Sands, which had argued in court briefs that the ban was a violation of the commerce clause of the Constitution and a government “taking” without compensation.
The southeast Minnesota county was the first in the state to enact a ban on mining silica sand, a key material for fracturing open shale rock to extract oil and natural gas. The county allowed sand mining to continue for construction sand, a cheaper and less-pure material used on roadways and as an aggregate for concrete.
The ban drew a lawsuit from Minnesota Sands, which had acquired mineral rights in Winona County. A district judge ruled for the county in 2017, dismissing the company’s claims. The company appealed and lost in a 2-1 decision at the state Court of Appeals in 2018.
The case has been closely watched by other counties throughout a region of Minnesota rich with silica sand deposits. Houston County, in the extreme southeast corner of the state, nearly enacted a ban before Winona.
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