Proposed mine may threaten Starved Rock
Starved Rock is located in Utica, Illinois - a two hour drive southwest from Chicago. It's a popular destination for fishing, rock climbing, hiking and picnicking.
Tony Giordano said a new silica sand mine adjacent to the park would mean new jobs and could inject $9 million into the local economy. He's the president of Mississippi Sand, the company proposing the mine. It mines a special kind of sandstone found in this part of the state and sell it to companies who frac for natural gas around the United States.
Giordano said he's not surprised that people are concerned about what the mine could mean for Starved Rock.
"We don't believe in any way that our utilization of our proposed parcel will negatively impact anybody within the park," he said. Giordano added that regulatory bodies are in place to make sure of that, too.
But environmentalists worry about its effects on the local ecology. Mike Phillips is a Geology Professor at Illinois Valley Community College and said the mine would hurt 73 acres of wetlands.
"The process of creating the mine will de-water part of that wetland initially and then the mine plan has them mining most of it," Phillips said.
Phillips said the aesthetic value of the park is at risk, too, "If there's noise, if there's dust, if you can feel vibrations from the occasional explosions at the mine - what would the value of that be? And that's very, very difficult to determine."
Phillips said he and many others he's spoken to learned about the proposed mine in November. He's hoping LaSalle County will slow the process down of issuing permits to the mining company and that they'll first make a comprehensive assessment of how a mine may impact the ecology and economy of Starved Rock, as many people's make their livings off the park's tourism.
The LaSalle County Board voted unanimously for the mine in December and they could make a final recommendation next week.