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Idled Trempealeau County frac sand mine has been purchased by Smart Sand Inc.

Purchase highlights continued consolidation of Wisconsin's sand mining industry

A frac sand mine in Chippewa Falls
In this Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011 photo, frac sand destined for the oil and gas fields piles up at the EOG Resources Inc. processing plant in Chippewa Falls. Steve Karnowski/AP Photo

The consolidation of Wisconsin’s frac sand mining industry continues with Texas based, Smart Sand Inc. announcing the purchase of a long idled mine in Trempealeau County.

On March 8, Smart Sand purchased a mine, processing and rail loading facility in the city of Blair formerly owned and operated by Texas Based Hi-Crush Inc. The mine has been closed since June 2020 when Hi-Crush announced plans to file for bankruptcy.

The facility is capable of producing 2.8 million tons of sand, known as “northern white” by oil and gas companies. During an earnings call with investors March 9, Smart Sand CEO Chuck Young said the Blair mine was purchased for around $6.5 million.

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“This facility provides direct and rail access and has estimated reserves of 110 million tons, over 43,000 feet of track and 20000 tons of solid storage capacity,” said Young.

The Blair facility has access to Canadian National rail lines, said Smart Sand Chief Financial Officer Lee Beckelman. He said that access will open up additional opportunities to supply oil and natural gas drilling operations in Canada.

Smart Sand officials said before the shuttered mine is reopened, it will have to be inspected to see what types of maintenance will be needed before bringing it back online. Chief Operating Officer John Young said the company can use some employees from its mine facility in Oakdale to help get the Blair facility running again. He said the company will also be reaching out to former employees who worked at the plant when it was operated by Hi-Crush.

“We’re aware of staffing issues and everything that every industry is dealing with right now,” said Young. “But in that particular area, we think we’ll be able to utilize some of our Oakville employees to help get it up and running, and we think we will be able to get folks who used to work that mine back.”

While the amount of sand sold by Smart Sand has increased since December 2020, the company reported a net loss of $12.2 million between October and December 2021 due, in part, to increased utility and shipping costs.