Precambrian Research Center

October 1-3, 2012

Earle Brown Heritage Center

Brooklyn Park, Minnesota

Organized by


Conference Sponsors

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Program and Abstracts

Field Trip Guidebook

Information Circular


- Welcoming Banquet (10/1)
- Technical Session (10/2)
- Field Trip (10/3)
CONFERENCE REGISTRATION  Pre-Registration Deadline - Sept. 17th

About the Conference

Mining of high-purity silica sand rock formations has been conducted in the upper Mississippi River Valley for over a century.  However, the boom in domestic oil and gas exploration over the past decade, largely spurred by increased use of hydraulic fracturing techniques, has driven a new mineral rush in Minnesota and Wisconsin for deposits of what the industry calls “Northern White Sand”.    By virtue of its nearly pure quartz composition, friability, and coarse grain size, this resource is considered an ideal “frac sand” for use as a proppant in oil and gas exploration and extraction.   Currently, silica sand’s use by the oil and gas industry is its second largest market by volume in the US after glassmaking (2012, Industrial Minerals Mag.).
In the face of this rush to expand current operations and develop new mines, there is an urgent need among the public, media, government regulatory agencies, and energy and mineral resource industries for credible information about this industry.   This conference seeks to answer many of the questions various stakeholders have raised about the development of this resource.  
  • Why are these silica sand deposits located in the upper Midwest?  
  • How is silica sand used in oil and gas exploration and what are its other uses? 
  • What makes an ideal silica sand deposit? 
  • How are these deposits mined and the sand processed?  
  • What environmental safeguards are employed during mining and processing to preserve water and air quality?
  • How is the material handled and transported?
  • How are sand mines reclaimed?
  • What regulations apply to silica sand mines and what permits are needed to develop a mine and processing plant?
  • What is the local and regional economic impact of silica sand mines?
The conference is being jointly organized by the University of Minnesota Duluth's Precambrian Research Center (PRC) and the Twin Cities section of the Society of Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SME).  The silica sand conference will be held in conjunction with the Midwest Groundwater Association Meeting at the Earle Brown Heritage Center in Brooklyn Park, MN (northwest of Minneapolis).   A welcoming banquet highlighted by a talk on the booming domestic oil and gas industry will kick things off on Monday evening.   A technical session of invited talks by experts from industry, government and academia will follow on Tuesday.   Wednesday will showcase some of the classic geological occurrences of silica sand formations and will visit several mining and processing operations in western Wisconsin that highlight best practices in the industry.

Conference Schedule (click on presenters names for brief bio)

Monday, October 1
Welcoming Banquet

Earle Brown Heritage Center, Brooklyn Park, MN
5:00-8:00          Registration Open
5:30-6:30          Reception/Cash Bar
6:30-8:00          Banquet
8:00-9:00          Keynote Talk - Dr. Stephen Brand
                           (ConocoPhillips, VP of Technology and Development, retired)
Talk Title – Technological Drivers behind the Domestic Boom in Oil                        and Gas Exploration

Tuesday, October 2
Technical Session on Silica Sand Resources

          Carriage Hall A, Earle Brown Heritage Center

7:00-10:15   Conference Registration (Carriage Hall A/B Pre-function Area)

8:00-8:15     Introduction (Jim Miller-PRC, Louis Rudnicki-SME)

8:15-9:00     Geological Occurrences and Origins of Silica Sand
                           Formations in the Upper Mississippi River Valley

PresentersTony Runkel (Chief Geologist, Minnesota Geological Survey) and
Kent Syverson (Professor, Univ. of Wisconsin-Eau Claire)
Emphasis – Occurrence and origins of Cambrian and Ordovician quartzose sandstone units; geologic characteristics affecting frac sand mining - faulting, cementation, geotechnical properties

9:00-9:20      Uses of Silica Sand, Part I - Silica Sand as a Proppant
                            in HydroFrac Drilling for Oil and Gas

PresenterPankaj Taneja (VP of Minerals, Schlumberger, Well Services Division)
Emphasis - Role and ideal characteristics of frac sand as a proppant in oil and gas extraction; chemical/ceramic coatings

9:25-9:45     Uses of Silica Sand, Part II - Other Uses of Quartz Sand

Maureen Lynn (VP of Marketing and Sales, Fairmount Minerals)
Emphasis - The importance of silica sand for metal-casting, water filtration, glass production, sports + recreation uses, and many different building products

9:45-10:15 Coffee Break
(Carriage Hall B, Harvest Room Pre-function areas)

10:15-10:45    Site Evaluations for Silica Sand Mines

Darrell Reed (Geologist, SEH Consultants) 
Emphasis – Field investigation techniques in assessing potential for silica sand mining

10:45-11:15    Silica Sand Mining Techniques

John Litsenberger (Consultant for Goodhue Co; formerly with Wisconsin Industrial Sand/Fairmount Minerals)
Emphasis - Overburden removal and stockpiling; open pit mining; contour mining; underground mining; hydraulic dredging; noise mitigation practices

11:15-11:45    Processing, Treatment, and Storage of Silica Sand
Christopher Kelley (Sales Manager – Aggregate Processing, McLanahan Corporation)
Emphasis – Crushing, grinding, washing, sorting, and other processing of sand; stockpile management

12:00-1:00    Lunch (available to all technical session registrants;
Carriage Hall A/B)

1:00-1:30     Water Use and Quality Controls related to Silica Sand
                            Mining and Processing

Presenter - Scott McCurdy (Hydrogeologist, Cedar Corp-Environmental Group)
Emphasis – Role of water in mining and processing; reuse and treatment of water; mitigation of potential surface and groundwater contamination; monitoring of water quality

1:30-2:00     Air Quality Controls related to Silica Sand Mining,
                            Processing, and Transportation

PresenterJeff Hedman (Engineer, Air Quality Permits Section, MN Pollution Control Agency)
Emphasis – Fugitive dust and emission sources and controls, characteristics of particulates, and air quality monitoring

2:00-2:30     Transportation Options and Issues

- Brennan Thomas (CEO, Pro Sands)
Emphasis – Transportation options for WI and MN operations, material transfer processes, mitigation of impacts on road infrastructure, noise, and congestion

2:30-3:00     Reclamation of Silica Sand Operations

- Paul Eger (Consultant; Former MNDNR Scientist on Mineland Reclamation) and Karl Everett (Consultant, Environmental and Mining Engineering)
Emphasis –Types of reclamation plans; reclaimed site inspection and monitoring

3:00-3:30 Afternoon Break
(Carriage Hall B, Harvest Room Pre-function areas)

3:30-4:00     Permitting and Regulation of Silica Sand Mining
                            Operations in Wisconsin

PresenterBruce Brown (Senior Geologist, Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey, retired)
Emphasis – Required permits, regulatory roles of state, county and local jurisdictions
4:00-4:40     Permitting and Regulation of Silica Sand Mining
                            Operations in Minnesota

PresentersWendy Turri (Wastewater Program Manger, MN Pollution Control Agency) and Lisa Hanni (Land Use Management Director, Goodhue County)
Emphasis – Required air quality and water quality permitting regulations and requirements for silica sand mining facilities in Minnesota; regulatory roles of state, county and local authorities

4:40-5:10     Economic Analysis of Silica Sand Resources
- Mark Krumenacher (Senior Vice President, GZA GeoEnvironmental)
Emphasis –Economic benefits and costs to state and local communities during the life cycle of a silica sand mining and processing operation

5:15-6:00    Reception/Cash Bar (open to all registrants; Garden City Ballroom)

6:00-7:30    Buffet Dinner (must purchase dinner ticket at additional cost; Garden City Ballroom)
Invited Speaker: Anders Helquist (Attorney, Weld, Riley, Prenn & Ricci, S.C.)
Talk Title: Political and Regulatory Climate for Silica Sand Mines: A Legal Perspective

7:30-9:00   Q&A on Silica Sand Mining (presenters will be available for a final question and answer session; open to all technical session registrants; Garden City Ballroom).

Wednesday, October 3
Field Trip on Silica Sand Resources of Western Wisconsin

7:30 AM              Depart Earle Brown Heritage Center
8:30-9:00            St. Peter Sandstone exposure, River Falls (B)
9:00-10:30          Drive to New Auburn (C)
10:30-12:00        Great Northern Sand mine and processing plant
12:00-12:15        Drive to Chippewa Falls (D)
12:15-1:30          EOG Resources mine and processing plant
1:30-2:30            Drive to Blair (E)
2:30-3:45            Preferred Sands mine and processing plant
3:45-4:00            Drive to Arcadia (F)
4:00-4:45            Jordan Sandstone exposure on Hwy 93 (near Arcadia)
4:45-5:45            Drive to Eau Claire (G)
5:45-6:15            Mt Simon exposure, Eau Claire
6:15-8:00            Drive to Earle Brown Center (H)

Conference Registration

Participants have the choice of registering for any of four cost components to the conference – welcoming banquet, technical session, Tuesday evening buffet, and field trip.   Students may attend the technical session at a discounted rate. 

Although attendance for the technical session and dinners are unlimited, the field trip can take a maximum of 100 participants. Therefore, first preference for field trip attendance will be given to those registered for the Silica Sand Conference technical session on a first come-first served basis, contingent upon receipt of the registration form and full payment of the field trip fees. Registrants not attending the technical session will be placed on a waiting list. Any field trip slots remaining after the pre-registration deadline (September 17th) will be added from the waiting list based on their payment and registration date, regardless of technical session attendance, until the roster is full. Payments will not be processed until registrant has secured a spot on the field trip.

Pre-Registration deadline is Monday, September 17th. A $50 Late Fee will be charged for registrations received after this date.

Click here to download a copy of the conference registration form. 

The costs for the conference components are:

Monday Welcoming Banquet ……………………………… $33   
Technical Session and Evening Q&A ……………………  $140
Tuesday Evening Buffet Dinner …………………………… $33
Field Trip …………………………………………………………  $100

Technical Session Registration includes:
  • Short course notebook of extended abstracts and Powerpoint lecture notes
  • CD of lecture powerpoints, abstracts, and handouts
  • Certificate of attendance indicating contact hours for professional development credit
  • Mid-session breaks and lunch
  • Admittance to cocktail reception following the topical sessions
  • Admittance to evening Q&A session
Field Trip Registration includes:
  • Transportation by coach bus
  • Field guidebook
  • Certificate of attendance indicating contact hours for professional development credit
  • Morning coffee and pastries, bag lunch, afternoon snack and refreshments

Students who are currently enrolled at an accredited college or university are eligible to enroll for the techical sessions at a reduced rate of $100. Depending on the level of corporate sponsorships for student support, student registrants may receive a rebate on the registration amount at the time of the meeting.

Payment, Notice of Acceptance and Cancellation Policy

Payment for conference registration can be made by check or by credit card (see registration form).   Upon receipt of a completed registration form and full payment, a receipt will be sent by email.  If the field trip fills, registrants can request to be put on a a tiered waiting list as described above and have their check or credit card information held.  
A full course refund will be given if notice of cancellation is received by Monday, September 24.  After that date, only technical session registration costs will be fully refunded.  Field trip fees will also be refunded if a substitute from the waiting list fills the slot.

Exhibitor Registration

Exhibitor Space is Full

Booth and table space are available to companies, professional organizations, and government agencies on Monday (10/1) and Tuesday (10/2) to display products and services to attendees of both the Silica Sand Resources Conference and the Midwest Ground Water Conference. Booths and tables will be made available for vendors and exhibitors on a first-come first-served basis. This is a great way to get access to a very targeted audience of producers, regulators, consultants, and oil and natural gas industry professionals. You will also have exposure to participants in the Midwest Groundwater Association’s 57th Annual Conference, being held in conjunction with the Silica Sand conference. The Midwest Groundwater Association’s annual conference draws groundwater scientists, professionals, and engineers from the 14 state Upper Midwest.

Deadline for securing space is Friday, September 14th. As shown on the floorplan map below, vendor booths will be next door to the main conference hall and the focus of conference breaks and the welcoming reception and banquet the evening of October 1st.

Exhibitor Booth - $1000
              - features an 8' x 10′exhibit area and a 3'×7' skirted table
              - includes one technical session registration

Exhibitor Table – $600
              - features a 3'×7' skirted table
              - includes one technical session registration

Click Here to Download an Exhibitor Registration Form

Contact Louis Rudnicki (; 763-425-4191) for more information.


Companies interested in generating more exposure to the hundreds of participants expected to be in attendance at the joint Silica Sand Resources and Midwest Ground Water conferences are encouraged to become a meeting sponsor.  Listed below are the various sponsorship opportunities, the contribution levels, and the benefits to the sponsor.

  • Recognition and Company Logo on Conference website Main Page, Sponsor Page, Conference Proceedings and Field Trip Guidebook
  • Company Logo on projector display during morning registration and breaks
  • Acknowledgement and brief corporate statement at beginning of conference
GOLD SPONSOR (Keynote Speakers or Monday Reception/Band) - $1,000
  • Recognition and Company Logo on Conference website Main Page, Sponsor Page and Conference Proceedings
  • Company Logo on projector display during morning registration and breaks
  • Acknowledgement and brief corporate statement at beginning of Keynote Address or prior to Monday’s reception & live music
SILVER SPONSOR (Reception Food/Reception Bar) - $600
  • Recognition and Company Logo on Conference website Sponsor Page and Conference Proceedings
  • Company Logo on projector display during morning registration and breaks
  • Corporate Logo and brief printed Corporate Statement on display at bars or appetizer tables
HOSPITALITY SPONSOR (Morning Coffee, Morning Break, or Afternoon Break) - $300
  • Recognition and Company Logo on Conference website Sponsor Page and Conference Proceedings
  • Company Logo on projector display during morning registration and breaks
  • Corporate Logo and brief printed Corporate Statement on display at break tables
  • Recognition and Company Logo on Conference website Main Page, Sponsor Page and Field Trip Guide
  • Company Logo on projector display during morning registration and breaks
  • Brief Corporate Statement during lunch on field trip day
Click here to download a conference sponsorship flier.

Contact Louis Rudnicki (; 763-425-4191) if your company is interested in a sponsorship or for more information.

Conference Center and Lodging Accommodations

The technical sessions and welcoming banquet will be held at the beautifully restored historic Earle Brown Heritage Center, conveniently located just minutes north of downtown Minneapolis.   The EBHC is located near the junction of I-694/94 and MN Hwy 100 in Brooklyn Park (see map).

As shown on the map below, a number of lodging accommodations are located within a 5-minute drive of the Earle Brown Heritage Center.  Contact information for these lodgings are listed in the table below.  Discounted conference rates have been negotiated for blocks of rooms with several facilities.  Ask for the “PRC  Silica Sand Workshop” rate when making reservations.

Lodging Accommodations near the Earle Brown Heritage Center




Web Address



Embassy Suites

(763) 560-2700



Comfort Inn

(763) 560-7464



Super 8

(763) 566-9810

$55 sngl
$60 dbl



(763) 566-7500



Crowne Plaza

(763) 489-2576



Country Inn & Suites

(763) 561-0900


* Negotiated rate does not include state and local taxes (~13.%); rates in parentheses are published website rates and are not guaranteed.

Midwest Ground Water Conference

The 57th Annual Midwest Ground Water Conference will be held at the Earle Brown Heritage Center concurrently with the Silica Sand Resource Conference.   The MGW conference will host two days of technical sessions on Monday, Oct. 1 and Tuesday, Oct. 2.  The Welcoming Banquet on Monday (10/1) evening will be open to both MGW and SSR conference participants.  Registrants to the Silica Sand Resource Conference interested in attending the Monday MWGWC sessions can register at:



                 Technical Session and Field Trip
                                Jim Miller
                                               218-726-6582 (UMD office)
                                               or 218-391-5320 (cell)
                 Exhibitors, Sponsorships, and General Conference
                               Louis Rudnicki
                 Registration and Lodging
                               Julie Anne Heinz