When North40 purchased the Rybak mine last year, they looked at the site and saw a bleak future.
“In three to five years, the original acres would have been mined over,” said co-owner Pete Olson. “So we needed the 200 acres.
“We’ve been open from the beginning. We told the Town of Farmington and Village of Osceola we wanted to expand.”
Olson said what intrigued him and his fellow owners about the potential expansion were the limitless potential of sand, limestone sand and gravel.
“We have over 200 different customers,” he said. “Public, private, DNR and State. These customers depend on our products for their business.” To turn it around, North40 keeps businesses alive as well, as Olson estimated they used 60 vendors.
Since the expansion has become known, a long and winding road has resulted as the Town of Farmington has worked on trying to create a new ordinance on regulating the expanded mine. The moratorium for the new mining permit has been extended multiple times, with Aug. 21 being the latest date.
“It’s been more challenging than I thought,” Olson said.
Olson last week sat down with The Sun to give his thoughts after a week in which Farmington held a public hearing on Aug. 4 which residents voiced their opinion for or against the expansion, and two days later, the Village of Osceola board denied extraterritorial zoning in regards to the mine.
Hours of Operation
Olson said with the current permit in place, they are allowed to mine 83 hours a week. The proposed ordinance limits it to 60 hours a week.
“We have more work to do in less time,” Olson said. He added based off experience, the summer months with long days and dry weather are the best conditions to mine.
“From December to March, there isn’t much of anything,” he said, in terms of crushing.
In the proposed ordinance, noise levels shall not exceed 95 decibels. According to the CDC, a motorcycle engine running is about 95 dB. Noise above 70 dB over a prolonged period of time may start to damage your hearing.
“We see that amount as the worse case scenario,” Olson said. He explained last year, North 40 set out to replace berms to help shield owners on Ridge Road. A three-phase power has been added to decrease generator noise.
A comment was made during the public hearing on Aug. 4 that there are no mines in Minnesota or Wisconsin that are so close to this many of people.
Olson said there are mines in the Apple Valley and Maple Grove areas in Minnesota, which are near residential developments. Both those cities are substantially larger than the Osceola area.
“Those cities and neighbors have flourished,” he continued.
When asked about frac sand, he said in 2019, they shipped out 120,000 tons. This year, the number was zero and next year, the number is planned to be zero.
“It’s not part of our current business plan,” he continued.
“There are safeguards in place in the ordinance in regards to the testing program,” Olson said. He added wells are being tested every 800 feet horizontally, both up and down gradient. Quarterly requirements are done, which will cost $500 every time per well.
The new ordinance is far more restrictive with substantially more requirements of testing and reporting. As regards for the ordinance, Olson believes it does a good job of establishing regulations along with the balance of North40’s needs for resources and neighbors’ concerns.