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Instability Continues For Frac Sand Industry

Industry Changes Marked by Layoffs, Mine Consolidation

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Wisconsin’s frac sand industry is undergoing a shakeup as smaller mines are being bought and sold, with some temporarily shutting down until demand increases.

But despite the disruption caused by low oil prices, new mining permits are still in demand.

It’s been nearly a year since oil prices were cut in half and frac sand companies have been left to regroup during a lull in demand for their product. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources industrial sand specialist Roberta Walls said that means some companies are cutting back. For example, a Chippewa Sands mine near Bloomer recently laid off 58 workers.

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“There have been some reports of some sand mines that are idling and laying off and yet there are new mines planning to come in and are looking at starting up new facilities,” she said.

Walls said eight mines have sought permits in Jackson, Clark, Eau Claire and Chippewa counties.

At the same time, smaller mines are being bought out by larger, more-established companies. Walls said this year, there have been around nine name changes at existing frac sand mines.

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