The Price of Sand: Wisconsin Today, Minnesota Tomorrow?

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 You can farm the same land over and over but once you mine it, it's gone," a Wisconsin woman told filmmaker Jim Tittle. Born and raised on a farm that's been in her family for generations, she represents one of the positions explored in his documentary, The Price of Sand, which focuses on Wisconsin conflict over silica mines, small towns and money — a conflict now playing out in southeastern Minnesota and in the Minnesota legislature.

The Price of Sand, an independently produced documentary examining the human and environmental costs of silica (frac) sand mining, was shown at an advance screening in Red Wing, Minnesota on March 22. The film, which offers a broad overview of some of the tough issues facing rural communities threatened by mining in the Upper Midwest, played to a packed audience at the Sheldon Theatre.

Tittle, a videographer by profession, started working on The Price of Sand two years ago after learning that an oil company had purchased land close to his mother's home in Hay Creek Township, south of Red Wing, Minnesota. Initially puzzled by the deal, Tittle soon discovered the company wasn't interested in oil but in silica (frac) sand, a commodity widely used by the oil and gas industry for the hydraulic-fracturing (or fracking) of shale and found in abundance in the blufflands of western Wisconsin, southeastern Minnesota, and northeastern Iowa. Concerned about what this might hold for the future of his hometown, Tittle began digging deeper into the subject and produced a series of YouTube videos featuring interviews with people living next door to mining operations across the river in western Wisconsin. These interviews became the foundation for his film. Read more here.