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Silicia Mine Could Affect Area Watershed, Opponents Say

Opponents of a proposed silica mining operation in Ste. Genevieve County could impact Reynolds County. A St. Louis attorney said that St. Francois Groundwater Province, which supplies Reynolds, Wayne, and Iron counties could be affected.
Steve Jeffrey, a St. Louis attorney, Dr. Kim Gordon of The Friends of Hawn State Park and Greg Nemec, a retired registered nurse, all shared concerns during Operation Sand, LLC’s community informational meeting Saturday, May 7.
The meeting, held a the Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Weingarten, was to get information spread and support built up to oppose a silica sand mining operation proposed by Nexgen Silica in northern Ste. Genevieve County.
The recently-organized Operation Sand had various hand-outs available and was even selling T-shirts opposing the sand mine.
Jeffrey, of Jeffrey Law Group, LLC, of Chesterfield, who had been chief counsel at the Missouri Department of Natural Resources under Governor John Ashcroft, 1987-1993, laid out public health concerns about the quartz-based silica sand and also went over legal issues.
He cited several studies made between 1980 and 2017 that outlined its danger to air quality. He compared the microscopic silica sand particles to tiny shards of glass.
It was later noted that, unlike beach sand or other types of sand on the surface, this sand has never been exposed to natural weathering or erosion. Therefore the edges of each particle remain sharp and pointy.
Jeffery cited studies that said the particles easily become airborne and can go up to half a mile from the edge of the mining property line.
He also argued that the types of soil in the area of the proposed mine are the types that generate a lot of water run-off. This threatens water supplies, he said.
Nemec and Gordon also stressed the water table dangers.
“When you mess with the water table, you’re messing with a lot of things,” Gordon said. He predicted that in the future, clean water may be “more precious than sand.”
Gordon stressed that no answers have been received on how the project might affect the water shed for the region.
He argued that tampering with the water table would “impact generations to come” and that “We don’t know a thing” as to what the impact of the operation could be.
Nemec argued that there is too much unknown abouit possible future health effects.
Anslow explained that the project would take place in the midst of the St. Francois Mountains Groundwater Province, which supplies water to parts of Iron, Madison, Reynolds, Ste. Genevieve, St. Francois, Washington and Wayne counties.
“It’s especially important for the St. Francois Province that the potential pollution sources are monitored,” Anslow said.
She noted that the St. Francois Province is considered one of the state’s most “delicate” water provinces and needs protection.
During his talk, Gordon also noted that the project would be “right in the middle of five natural areas,” Hawn State Park, Pickle Springs Natural Area, Horton Farms Conservation Area, Hickory Canyons Natural Area and Magnolia Hollow Conservation Area.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources will hold a public meeting on the issue at 7 p.m., May 19 at the Progress Sports Complex in Ste. Genevieve, with doors opening at 6 p.m.

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