Groups protest frac sand mining conference

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Experts in the frac sand mining industry gathered Tuesday at the La Crosse Center for a national conference hosted by an industry magazine.

But the conference also attracted groups of protesters who say the industry is hurting Wisconsin.

The Frac Sand Insider Conference gave industry professionals a first look at new products and technology.

Frac sand mining is the process of manufacturing a certain type of sand so that it can be used in the hydraulic fracking process, which gets natural gas out of the ground.

The alternative to frac sand mining is to use synthetic sand, which is more expensive.

Wisconsin and its surrounding states make up the largest area in the country for this type of sand.

"Wisconsin is strategically located in the glacial moraines, after the glaciers receded it created the Great Lakes, they dumped sand and gravel everywhere," said Mark Kuhar, editor of Rock Products Magazine and organizer of the conference. "Well, Wisconsin happens to be in the sand and gravel field, so the geology dictates that this particular kind of product is here."

But not everyone supports the practice.

Eighteen local organizations joined together Tuesday afternoon outside the La Crosse Center to protest frac sand mining.

They say frac sand mining is not only bad for the environment, but also threatens human health.

"It removes the beauty of the area, you're left with scars instead of beautiful wooded bluffs, it negatively impacts tourist business," said Bryan Van Gorp, a member of Houston County Protectors. "It negatively impacts air quality for other people living in the vicinity, the silica dust is a known carcinogen."

Kuhar says that he respects the group's right to free speech, but he does not agree with their concerns.

"My message to them would be that this isn't the kind of problem that you're creating it to be," he said. "The people that are in this industry and highly trained professionals, it's not amateurs, it's not people coming in to make a quick buck, there's a lot of very longstanding corporate entities that are involved in this and they really want to do their job as good as possible."

The Frac Sand Insider Conference continues on Wednesday at the La Crosse Center.