Q. Where will Southern Red Sands’ frac sand operation be located?

Southern Red Sand Map of Mining Claims
Southern Red Sand Map of Mining Claims

The frac sand processing plant and mine will be located 10 miles east of Zion National Park in Southern Utah. Southern Red Sands LLC has leased 640 acres of SITLA (School and Institutional Trust Land Administration) land at Red Knoll, including the knoll itself. Moreover, Southern Red Sands holds mining claims for 11,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land covering the area from the White Cliffs, to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Cave Lakes Canyon, and Yellowjacket Canyon; and an additional 320 acres of SITLA land at Peekaboo Slot Canyon (Red Canyon).

Q. How will an industrial frac sand operation affect the landscape and wildlife?

The extensive area of the proposed mining operation and its mining claims is frequently used by tourists and local residents for hiking, photographic, ATV rides, and hunting. This beautiful area is located on Utah’s first Heritage Highway, Hwy 89. It is an area that the families of Kane County have enjoyed visiting for many generations, as have visitors from around the world.

The presence of a large mining operation will make this landscape far less attractive for recreational uses. The sight of a large industrial facility with mining pits and piles of sand will ruin the scenic quality of the area. The area of the processing plant will be fenced off by 8 ft fencing, and the public will no longer have access to the road to the summit of Red Knoll. The loud noise of the industrial facility will travel for miles. The sound of heavy equipment and hauling trucks will ruin the tranquility of this scenic area of sand hills, sage bush, and trees. The plant will be operated and lit with bright lights 24 hours per day.

Hunting and cattle ranching will be displaced and impacted. The large amount of water needed for this operation may deplete natural springs that are needed for cattle and wildlife. The deer herds that migrate to winter-over in this area may disappear.

Q. How large will the frac sand operation be?

Southern Red Sands has leased a School Trust Land (SITLA) parcel of 640 acres for the industrial processing plant. The footprint of the sand processing facility is proposed to be 15 acres, and will consist of six 120-foot silos, open wastewater pools, and large electric generators. The industrial facility will be visible for many miles including the East entrance of Zion National Park, although, Southern Red Sands says that the silos will be painted to better blend in with the natural landscape.

The area for mining the sand is undetermined, based on the depth of available sand, and the demand for sand from oil & gas fracking companies. Southern Red Sands’ holds mining claims of 11,000 acres of adjacent BLM land on both sides of Highway 89. At this point there is no way of knowing how much public land will be consumed by this frac-sand operation over time.

Q. How much water will Southern Red Sands use?

Southern Red Sands has contracted with the City of Kanab and Kane County Water Conservancy District (KCWCD) for 1,200 acre-feet of water a year for 50 years. That is equal to 1.1 million gallons of water a day, about 80 percent of Kanab’s current usage. 

Southern Red Sands plans to drill two water wells and directly draw water from Lamb’s Tongue Point that Kanab residents depend on for drinking water. A recent assessment by Dr. Ken Kolm states that the water contracted by SRS will be between 18 to 22 percent of the water available to Kanab. It could therefore seriously deplete the city’s and area’s water supply.

Q. How much water does Kanab have?

Given the various water reports and findings, we do not know how much water Kanab has in its aquifer, and how long it will last. There is a great risk attached to not knowing when we may run out of water.

A 2016 Water Needs Assessment projected that Kane County Water Conservancy District will be in deficit by 2035. The report states:

When the estimated effects of climate change (Reclamation 2014) are applied to these supplies and a 10 percent planning reserve is added, the reliable supply drops to 2,102 ac-ft per year by 2060. KCWCD [Kane County Water Conservancy District] reliable supplies are projected to be in deficit by 2035 when they would be exceeded by total water use.

2016 Water Needs Assessment

The clear implication of this report is that if the KCWCD sells water to Southern Red Sands, that Kane County residents may not have the water we need in the near future.

Q: Why do frac sand mines use huge amounts of water?

The mined sand will be used in oil and gas fracking. To be usable for fracking, the sand undergoes processing at a plant located at the mine site to ensure uniform hardness and shape. The processing involves:

  1. Washing: The sand is sprayed with high-pressure water and chemicals
  2. Drying: The sand is transferred to large rotating drums fed by hot air.
  3. Screening and sorting: to capture the sands suitable for fracking and disposing of other sand.

Southern Red Sands states that it will be able to recycle 95 percent of this water. Other fracking sand mining operations have only been able to recycle 90 percent of their water, implying that Southern Red Sands claims that it can get by using half as much water as other frac sand operations. 

Q: How much is Southern Red Sands paying for water?

Southern Red Sands is paying $2 for 1,000 gallons of water. That is less than half of what Kanab residents pay for their water. The contract with the City states that the price will increase with inflation (CPI-U) – but only every 5 years, not every year. Moreover, water will be an increasingly scarce resource, and the price of water will likely increase faster than inflation, further widening the gap between what Southern Red Sands pays and what residents pay for water.

Q: Which chemicals are used in frac sand processing?

The processing of frac sand mine includes washing the sand with chemicals such as acrylamide and diallyldimethylammonium chloride. Acrylamide has been associated with damage to the blood and the nervous system. Diallyldimethylammonium chloride can lead to the formation of the suspected carcinogen N-nitrosodimethylamine in the presence of water disinfectants (chloramines), which is a particular concern when frac sand wastewater leaks into the groundwater used for drinking.

According to the Sierra Club, sand mining, like other aspects of fracking, wastes enormous quantities of water and risks the contamination of local drinking water supplies.

Q: How many more trucks on scenic Highway 89?

Southern Red Sands states on their website that “a truck can carry 42 tons of sand. If we produced 700 thousand tons per year that’s roughly 46 trucks per day or one truck every half-hour annualized over a year.” More likely, the actual number of trucks will be around 150-300 per day – equal to one truck every 4-10 minutes 24/7.

Worth noting, Southern Red Sands did not account for trucks having to return to pick up more frac sand. Moreover, the standard load of a truck is 25 tons of sand. Since the truck itself weights more than 30,000 pounds, a load of 42 tons would put the total weight close to 115,000 pounds which is illegal on most Interstate highways, including Highway 89.

Given the size of the planned processing plant with six 120 ft silos, Southern Red Sands when fully operational will likely produce much more than 700,000 tons of frac sand per year. In comparison, the average frac mine in Wisconsin produces 1.5 million tons.

Q: How will the frac sand operation affect Kanab’s economy?

Kanab’s economy is based on tourism with 10 percent of private sector jobs being in lodging, restaurants, and recreation. Kanab has tremendous natural beauty, and is known as being “magically unspoiled.” Placing a large industrial frac sand processing facility at the northern gateway to our community will certainly make Kanab a less attractive tourist destination.

A large number of heavy trucks may be going through Kanab day and night, negatively impacting the charm and tranquility of the town. It will also make the center of our town much less safe for both tourists and local residents. Visitors to the National Parks and Monuments of Southern Utah may choose to stay in other localities such as Springdale, Page, Hildale, Colorado City, and Fredonia.

The result is likely to be a loss of jobs in the tourism industry, lower incomes, closing of businesses, and higher unemployment.

Q: How many jobs will Southern Red Sands create?

Southern Red Sands claims that their operation will create 40 jobs, which is more than the average number jobs in sand mine operations in Wisconsin, the state with the most frac sand mining jobs. According to data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average frac sand mine in WI employed 35 people in 2018.

Frac sand mining and processing is highly cyclical with the demand for frac sand soaring when oil and gas prices go up, and demand crashing as prices fall. For example, in Chippewa County Wisconsin – ground zero of frac sand mining – two-thirds of all jobs sand mining industry were lost between 2015 and 2018 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The reality of boom-bust industries, like frac sand mining, is that many jobs are not permanent. 

Q: Will Southern Red Sands increase funding for schools in Kane County?

No. One of the supposed benefits from Southern Red Sands’ operation is that money that will be going to schools from the frac sand mining on SITLA land. But the reality is that Kane County school children will receive less than $1 per year.

Southern Red Sands is paying much less than SITLA’s standard royalty rate of $3 per ton. Southern Red Sands requested a huge rate reduction claiming

While SRS was hopeful that we would be able to develop a successful project at the Permit’s current royalty rate, the market analysis and geologic testing we have performed, coupled with bids from third party contractors for transportation and construction, have led us to conclude that a successful silica operation on the Permits can only be achieved through a reduced royalty rate.

Chad Staheli’s letter to Utah SITLA on January 14th, 2019

Under the final agreement, Southern Red Sands will pay $1/ton for the first two million tons produced, $1.25 for the next two million tons of sand, and $1.50 over 4 million tons of sand for each permit.

However, only a small fraction of the royalty payments will go to Kane County schools. SITLA is a trust, and it distributes money based on its assets, not income. Based on Southern Red Sands’ statement that the plan to produce 1.62 million tons a year, their total payments to SITLA is $1.64 million. This will raise SITLA’s future payouts to Utah schools by about $66,000. But money doesn’t just go to Kane County Schools. The formula for distribution is heavily weighted by population, so Kane County gets a bit less than 0.4 percent of the annual payout. That would come to roughly $260 a year, or about 4 cents per student.