The effect of increased demand for frac sand in LaSalle County, Illinois, the no. 1 producer of industrial sand by county, in the U.S.A

C. Pius Weibel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Illinois, the leading industrial sand producer by state during the 20th Century, was recently overtaken by Wisconsin, as demand for frac sand has sharply increased during the last 10 years. During the last 100 years or so, the majority of the industrial sand produced in Illinois has been, and continues to be, from the "Ottawa Sand" District in LaSalle County. The "Ottawa Sand" is mined from the Middle Ordovician St. Peter Sandstone, which outcrops along the Illinois River and its tributaries. The spectacular canyons of both Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks, located on the south side of the Illinois River, are primarily within the St. Peter Sandstone. In the last decade, production has mostly come from four large mining operations located in Wedron, Ottawa, Utica, and Troy Grove. Increased demand for industrial sands, mostly fueled by the increase in the "slack-water hydraulic fracturing" process for extraction of oil and natural gas, has led to increased sand production from the existing mines, and to the siting of two additional large sand mines and one small mine along the Illinois River. All of the currently producing mines have for several decades operated on the north side of the Illinois River. One of the new large (about 80 acres) mines, however, is on the south side of the Illinois River and is adjacent to Starved Rock State Park, which is considered to be (and rightly so) the most popular State Park in Illinois. Because of the controversy surrounding this mine site, the LaSalle County Board instituted a moratorium on permitting sand mine operations in the county. The continued demand, and related economic benefits, of mining frac sand, however, has resulted in a nearby municipality annexing the areas of the proposed second and third new mines, thus skirting the County-wide moratorium, but not without additional controversy.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAbstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America
Place of PublicationMadison, Wisconsin
StatePublished - 2015


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