Sargent Sand has applied for a renewal of their sand dune mining permit in Ludington. It had been assumed that the mine would be closed and the site sold. The mine site has been the subject of negotiations for Michigan DNR to purchase some or all of the land from Sargent to enlarge Ludington State Park. It is reported that the parties are closer to an agreement than they have been in 30 years. But since the boom in fracking the price of fracking sand has dramatically increased and the mine lchanged from marginally profitable to a potential bonanza.
The mine is still under a DEQ sand dune mining permit that must be renewed by December 31. Sargentâ€™s new proposed mining plans are to eliminate two large dunes and remove usable sand to a depth of 30 feet thus creating another 180 acre lake. A rough estimate is that 8,500,000 tons of sand will be mined. This converts to nearly $60 million in sales at $70 per to and another 10-12 years of mining at the site.
There are many reasons to oppose continuation of mining at this site: further destruction of a precious and rare natural resource, loud noise for up to 16 hours per day, wear and tear on roads and degraded traffic safety due to the quantity of trucks, reduced desirability and values of nearby properties, air pollution due to silica dust, unknown and unanalyzed impacts on hydrogeology, lost opportunities for development of other uses in Ludington. And many more reasons will likely be raised at the hearing. All this on top of 80 years of prior destruction and annoyance.
This permit should not be renewed because the proposed mining is not a continuation of an existing activity but a significant expansion. It proposes to open up new areas for strip mining and dredging.
Instead Sargent should apply for a new permit, or at the very least the DEQ should require an amendment to the permit that is processed just as a new permit would be under Part 637 and fulfill the requirements of 637, especially 637.04. This would require Sargent to provide:
(a) A permit application on a form provided by the department.
(b) An environmental impact statement of the proposed mining activity as prescribed by section 63705.
(c) A progressive cell-unit mining and reclamation plan for the proposed mining activity as prescribed by section 63706.
(d) A 15-year mining plan as prescribed by section 63707.
Finally, a public hearing should be held before a new or an amended permit can be approved.
A public hearing is scheduled for tonight (12/12/16) from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Ludington Municipal Building, 400 S Harrison St, Ludington, MI.