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Future of frac sand unclear

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Frac sand boom creates thousands of jobs
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2012 Frac Sand Facilities in Wisconsin

What will the sand mining industry look like in Wisconsin in 30 years? Some of the small sites will be completely mined and reclaimed in a few years, according to permit applications, while most of the larger facilities with processing plants estimate they have 15 to 25 years of sand reserves. The demand for Wisconsin’s sand directly follows the demand for oil and natural gas, according to Thomas Dolley, a mineral commodity specialist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “I’ve heard rumors that things are flattening out a bit, but I don’t think it (hydraulic fracturing) is going away anytime soon,” Dolley said. In Wisconsin, many industry experts believe that the state is nearing the peak of new mine development and that established, corporate mining companies will soon out-compete the smaller operations.

Frac sand boom creates thousands of jobs

Currently, there are no official employment numbers for the state’s rapidly expanding frac sand industry. But the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, using job-site estimates developed by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, found that when existing mines and those being built are fully operating, the industry will employ about 2,780 people — a sizeable number given the state’s overall luckluster job picture.

Explainer: What is fracking?

Find out more about the hydraulic fracturing process and how Wisconsin “frac sand” is used to drill for gas and oil.