RED WING - More than 100 citizens filled a Red Wing Public Library meeting room to learn what they can do about preventing silica sand from being mined across 155 acres in Hay Creek Township just two miles south of Red Wing last week.

Windsor Permian, part of the Oklahoma-based Windsor Energy, bought the land for $2.6 million earlier this year, and although it's unknown what the company will do with the land, many citizens fear it will be used to mine silica sand.

Silica sand, as opposed to normal sand, is worth about $1,400 per ton.

Windsor Permian has already drilled exploratory wells, which can be done without a permit, but the company has not turned in any kind of application to Goodhue County for a permit allowing the mining of silica sand.

Goodhue County Land Use Management Director Lisa Hanni said that without having received an application, the county does not know many details about Windsor Permian's plans.

"Let's be realistic though, nobody pays $2.6 million for topsoil," said Goodhue County Commissioner Jim Bryant, who helped answer questions from the public at the meeting. He lives in Hay Creek Township.

Citizens have the same mindset and are anticipating the company will apply for a permit to start mining.

If an application is turned in, the county is bound by state statute to make a decision about the permit within 60 days, unless an environmental assessment worksheet is needed. An EAW will be necessary if the aggregate mining operation is expected to exceed 40 acres in size to a mean depth of 10 feet.

One of the concerns citizens at the meeting raised was whether the sand mine would impact the groundwater and affect Hay Creek.

The public also asked if a permit is allowed with certain conditions listed, who would enforce them? For example, if an aggregate tax is required, Windsor Permian would have to report exactly how much sand it is taking out, but citizens at the meeting seemed hesitant to believe the required reporting would be enforced.

If and when a completed application from Windsor Permian is turned in, the Goodhue County Planning Commission will hold a hearing for anyone to come and voice more concerns.