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Superior Silica Sands Sees Long, Prosperous Future in Sand Mining, Processing

In slightly more than three years, a small Texas company has launched Wisconsin mineral processing plants that annually handle as many tons as Hibbing Taconite. When an expansion is completed next year, its capacity will rank with Cleveland Cliffs’ Minnesota and Michigan operations combined. But the firm isn’t in the iron ore business.

The company’s name says it all – Superior Silica Sands. With roots in Kosse, Texas, it expanded into Wisconsin during 2011 to take advantage of sand that’s ideal for injection into underground wells, where it “fractures” fissures and releases oil and gas (thus, the nickname “frac” sand).

Superior Silica Sands’ first plant was constructed in the Village of New Auburn, where it processes 1.4 million tons per year. A second plant soon was built in nearby Clinton Township, near Barron, adding 2.4 million tons of capacity, then a third was added in the Town of Arland, near Turtle Lake, adding 2.5 million tons.

“Our company is sold out for every ton of sand we produce,” said President and CEO Rick Shearer. Between 2013 and 2014, he noted, demand grew 30 percent in the frac sand industry. Given that scenario, Superior Silica Sands already has plans in the works for a fourth plant. To be constructed 30 miles south of Eau Claire in the City of Independence, it will open next fall.

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