Eau Claire (WQOW) - Has the demand for sand decreased because too many plants are flooding the market?
In Western Wisconsin, the answer is no.
"In 2009 in initial permitting we had a couple mines come through and got permitted. In 2011 we saw a relative boom in permitting," says Chippewa County project engineer Seth Ebel.
That's in Chippewa County alone where it fielded five permits, a feat that's hard to beat lately.
"There are definitely fewer permits being issued, but where that's a little misleading is that the permits that are being issued are for bigger companies and they're for substantially bigger mining acreages," says John Behling, attorney for several mining companies.
Some near a thousand acres, meaning there's more sand on the supply side of the market, but the demand for the type of sand Western Wisconsin has is not waning.
"There are times when the market will control what's stockpiled, what's shipped. But definitely you're not seeing a lot of stockpiling in areas of western Wisconsin right now," says Behling.
Instead the shift in this area has to do with the permits and how less is becoming more.
"Since then the pace has dropped off from that 2011 pace. We had three mines get permitted in 2012 and as of 2013 we haven't permitted one yet," says Ebel.
"The mining game is like any other game. The low cost producer at the end of the day wins. So if you can find a site where you've got rail and you can wash the sand, you can dry the sand and you can ship it, all literally on site," says Behling.
You can make a profit by saving on the cost it takes to send the sand to market.
"It's expensive to run a sand mine. The regulations are very expansive. They're exhaustive. So it's not a surprise to have those smaller entities start to sell out," says Behling.
Western Wisconsin sand is unique for a variety of markets including the oil industries and fracking because of its size and shape.
The roundness of our sand stands up to the fracking process and is highly sought after in North Dakota.