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Missouri Mining Commission revokes permit for Ste. Genevieve silica mine

Ste. Genevieve County residents formed a group called Operation Sand to organize and oppose NexGen Silica's mine based on health concerns.
Jillian Ditch Anslow
The Missouri Mining Commission has revoked a permit for a silica sand mine in Ste. Genevieve County. Last year, Ste. Genevieve County residents formed a group called Operation Sand to organize and oppose NexGen Silica's mine based on health concerns.

The Missouri Mining Commission has revoked a mining permit for a Silica sand mine in Ste. Genevieve County following months of opposition from residents.

In a 4-1 vote, the commission ruled Thursday that NexGen Silica’s permit application contained irregularities. Commissioners cited a November request by the state’s administrative hearing commission that the state pull the permit, in part because the company’s application didn’t include a full list of property owners with a vested interest. The administrative hearing commission also noted that NexGen did not have a legal right to mine the land.

The planned 249-acre mine would sit near Hawn State Park and Highway 32. Since the plan was announced, some residents formed Operation Sand, a community group opposing the mine, citing worries that it could contaminate well water and harm air quality.

“People who work with this stuff have to wear a respirator, but there's no regulations on the people who live near where this stuff is mined,” Operation Sand President Jillian Ditch Anslow said.

A spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources said the mining commission will need to issue its written decision no later than Jan. 17.

NexGen Silica General Manager Clark Bollinger said in a statement that while he is disappointed in the state’s decision, the company still expects to acquire the permits to fulfill its plans.

Last spring, the Ste. Genevieve Health Department and the county commissionvoted unanimously to pass a health ordinance requiring silica mines to operate at least a half-mile away from residents and water sources.

“Even if they get all the permits in the world, they can't mine at this site,” Ditch Anslow said. “NexGen wants to challenge these things, they did file a suit against the county, but no moves have really been made on that yet, but that ordinance protects us.”

Ditch Anslow said Operation Sand plans to ask the administrative hearing commission to review a decision by the state Department of Natural Resources to issue NexGen a water permit. She also expects NexGen to challenge the mining commission’s Thursday decision.

“We anticipate that NexGen will appeal this decision to the Missouri Court of Appeals,” Ditch Anslow said. “We have to stay engaged in the fight because we're going to end up in front of an actual judge, would be my prediction, so it's not quite over.”

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.