Sand Mining Sacrifice Zones

About fifty people traveled from eight counties in Wisconsin to tour an area hard hit by sand mining operations, in and around Hixton in Jackson County. We met and listened to many people caught in the ravages of mining. Here are a few of the points I found most compelling.

Communities are divided as high percentages of acreage within townships are being devoured. Much of the land that is sold for mining is by absentee landowners, who do not share the common love for the area, nor its history.

One particular brilliant statement challenged the idea, “I can sell my land to whomever I want”, with this, “Yes, you can sell your land to anyone, but it is not permissible or legal for whomever buys your land to cause a nuisance for the people living here.”

For some, the battle to save their land and way of life is only a few months old. For many we heard from today, it has been years in the making. Some spoke honestly of the toll that has been taken. Some held back tears.

People have told me to think of all the jobs that would be lost if we moved away from fossil fuels like the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania that is sucking up Wisconsin’s sandy hills…but perhaps it is time we consider the lives that are being disrupted with the destruction caused by extreme extraction.

Perhaps we should all take a turn living day after day, 24 hours a day, year after year (some mines are guaranteed to operate for 25 years) with explosions, sand dust, shaking homes, children afraid and made ill by the constant disturbance…and much more.

The mining industry has done an excellent job hiding these people from sight. It has done a great job in declaring “mom and pop” status, while in fact most are huge corporations with international ties.

I am not sure what was harder to take in, the visuals of the raw hillsides being raped of the sand as we stood on the handsomely manicured farm …or the deep sorrow in the voices of these good, hard working people as they once again told the story that has become their shared existence.IMG_0167

All I know is that I can not sit by and continue to allow the unchallenged story line that all is well in Jackson, Trempealeau and other counties here in Wisconsin, while my neighbors are being victimized, the earth raped and with the reality that companies are lining up to shred more of the pristine beauty of this land.IMG_0205

So here are a few of my photos of the day, and my promise to continue to report on the status of Wisconsin’s sand mining operations. And to be sure, I will continue to urge all of us to reconsider our energy usage, the high toll it requires on the earth and her people and to move to more peaceful and possible renewables. It is past time.


Pictures below: 1.Why sand particles can blow away. 2. While they are creating “covered” carriers – and eliminating trucking jobs – these covered tubes are not enclosed – allowing more silica to escape…3. And coming to a church near you…


From Sheila Danielson, an organizer of this sand mining operations tour: “We want to thank those who made this tour possible, Dwight and Ruth Swenson, who allowed us to be a part of their life living with sand mining;  Mike and Stacy Sylla, Bill and Angie Sylla, Tom Reininger, Cecelia Kraus, Jane Justesen, and Ronnie and Lori Casper for their stories; and to those who worked in the background:  Pat and Gaylord Oppegard and Ruth Swenson for setting up lunch and cleaning up the kitchen when we were done and Greg Krueger for arriving early and helping wherever needed.
The day would not have been possible without you and the grant funds ACT NOW received from the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) and  Western Mining Action Network (WMAN) 2016-2017 Grassroots Communities Mining Mini-Grant Program.”

5 thoughts on “Sand Mining Sacrifice Zones

  1. I have been frequently traveling to Northern Wisconsin for over 15 years. I want to weep every time I pass the sand mines by Hixton. They have grown exponentially over the last five years. So very sad to see our beautiful State up for sale to the highest bidder.


  2. Thank you, Dena, for shining a light on the creeping devastation of these mines here in Wisconsin and elsewhere. The thoughtless greed that drives extraction industries does not just cause disease… it is the disease.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for this, Dena.
    While we in Crawford County have only one of these mines, I’ll chime in that Pattison Sand actually has a 60 year permit to mine in Bridgeport. I had heard that was long for this industry, and comparing it to the number you quoted for the mines up there, it seems it is true. We did what we could to stop the mine, even entering into a long and expensive litigation after all “democratic” procedural avenues failed. That failed too, mostly on a technicality, but the legal deck is stacked against citizens. Now we have to live with it for over half a century before it is even up for review and re-permitting! And this is for the non-metallic mine operator with the most violations in the industry nationwide.


    1. Forest, I never accept that we have “to live with” anything. What is, can be undone. With education, effort and communication on priorities of earth, water and people, everything is possible. Thank you for al lot your efforts! Let’s keep going.


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