Court to hear challenge to Winona County's sand mining ban

Court Watch

Winona County, Minnesota's only county to ban the mining of silica sand for use by the oil and gas industry in hydraulic fracturing, goes to court Monday to defend the ban.

Minnesota Sands LLC, which holds extensive mineral rights in southeastern Minnesota, is challenging the legality before the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Here's a look at the ban and key issues before a three-judge panel:

The Winona County Board adopted the ban in 2016 after public hearings that drew large crowds. The Land Stewardship Project spearheaded a 17-month grassroots campaign, citing risks to public health, air and water; damage to the scenic landscape of southeastern Minnesota; the impact on roads from heavy truck traffic and the loss of farmland.

Minnesota Sands LLC sued, arguing it was an unconstitutional restraint on interstate commerce and it made worthless the company's mineral rights leases on nearly 2,000 acres of land in the county. The company says the silica sand there is worth between $3.6 billion and $5.8 billion. Winona County District Judge Mary Leahy rejected those arguments last November, so the company appealed.

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