MISLEADING STATEMENTS MADE BY FRAC SAND MINING COMPANIES “We only want whole grains of sand, so we won’t be fracturing the sand grains.”
Truth: The sand in sandstone formations is not present as 100% “whole grain”, pre-washed sand. There is a cement holding the grains together, and this is mostly composed of crystalline silica particles. There may also be non-silica and other particulate contaminants present in the sandstone. Blasting is needed to break up the cemented sandstone, and this will produce and release silica dust.
Dust can also be released during truck loading, transporting, stockpiling, crushing and conveying. While washing removes much of the silica dust, and other contaminants, if the sand is transported before it is washed, then silica dust will have more opportunities to escape during transport. Thus far, mining companies are not consistently covering their trucks during transport.
“The sand we want is just like sand at the beach, round and smooth.”
Truth: This is true. However, beach sand is ALWAYS wet and the finer particles are washed out of it. The sandstone to be mined will have some moisture, but this will be variable depending upon rainfall and drought levels. The breathable sizes will not be washed out of the mined material until much later in processing. Mining companies need to spray water over fugitive dust sources to “keep the dust down” but it is not certain that this misting of freshly mined sand will restrain the smallest particles of silica dust.