At Summerfest in Maiden Rock, WI, the annual sand mine tour is a big attraction. We paid $5 each and stood in line with a happy group of tourists and locals, waiting for one of two old flatbed diesel trucks that were shuttling tours into the mine.
Sparky, our tour guide, made it clear that photography during the tour was absolutely prohibited. (“Trade secrets”) We stayed on the trucks for the entire tour, moving slowly through the tunnels.
Of course, we took notes.
Here are a few fun facts:
There are 30-35 miles of tunnels, which go 3 miles back from the entrance.
Sand from the mine is not sold for sand blasting–there’s too much liability, due to silicosis.
Fairmount Minerals ships about 23 rail cars and 8-12 trucks of sand from Maiden Rock every day.
The company coats some of this sand with resin at other facilities–this makes it more valuable.
The mine employs 45 people.
The tunnels are 250-300 feet below the surface.
Tunnels are about 25 x 25 feet in cross section.
Blasting turns the sandstone into sand.
Sand is moved through the mine in poly pipes, as a slurry of 70% water, 30% sand.
The mine contains the 2nd largest bat population in Wisconsin.
Deer, fox, racoon and oppossums wander into the mine. The racoons and oppossums eat bats.
When the tour was over, we were left with the impression that this is a very big operation, and the people who work there are proud of it. After the extreme noise and overpowering odor of the diesel tour truck, we were happy to hop off and head over to the Smiling Pelican for coffee and muffins.