Debate, confusion surrounding sand mine

Houston County mine shut down over permit issues

Frustration is growing in Houston County over a silica sand mine.

The mine in Rushford was shut down last week after the DNR told the mine’s owner they needed a new permit, but the county says the DNR has the wrong information.

Tuesday supporters of the shutdown spoke at the County Board meeting, telling commissioners they’re wrong.

The Minnesota DNR says the Erickson Mine’s permit expired while the County Board was in the process of reviewing it, which is why the DNR is saying the mine needs a new permit called a trout stream setback permit.

At Tuesday’s county commissioners meeting, the topic of the Erickson Mine wasn’t even on the agenda, but that didn’t stop opponents of the mine from voicing their opinion.

The first 15 minutes of the Houston County Board of Commissioners meeting was open for public input. Ken Tschumper and 3 other residents took the time to share with county commissioners why they oppose the Erickson Mine, and support the Minnesota DNR’s decision to close it.

“The county opposed the DNR doing this,” said Tschumper, “we believe the DNR acted correctly within it’s statutory authority to restrict the Erickson Mine. We think the county has been mistaken all along in granting a permit to the Erickson Mine.”

Tschumper says he has seen the damage mining can cause and doesn’t want that to happen in his county. “We do not want that kind of rape of our landscape in Houston County so we’re really interested in protecting the public interest here and not the special interest of the mining industry,” said Tschumper.

But Houston County officials say the mine’s permit didn’t expire. “No, I don’t look at it as being expired, it’s a review date,” said Vice Chair Steve Schuldt, “it’s pretty much up to our planning and zoning board to get together with these people, let them know it’s up for review. If there’s no violations then it’s extended for another five years.”

When the permit was up for review last year, the county board saw no reason to take it away. “The mine has operated satisfactory, no violations, there was just no reason to deny his right to his land use,” said Schuldt.

Residents also spoke out Tuesday because they worry Houston County is going to take the DNR to court, because by shutting the mine down the county feels the DNR has overstepped it’s authority. But as of now the county board vice chair says the county hasn’t taken any legal action.

The county commissioner says even though the group opposed to the Erickson Mine is asking for the board to revoke the mine’s permit, the county currently sees no reason to do so.