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Mining Companies Turn Sand to Gold

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susan_harr6 years ago

Mining and energy companies have found a way to turn sand to gold- but at a cost. The process of mining silica sand- or crystalline silica- is very profitable, but the risks are high for workers and communities.


There have been notable advancements in the safety of mining industry workers; but with new technology come new risks. The new technology: hydro-fracking. The risk: deadly lung ailments like Silicosis and lung cancer. Silicosis results from the exposure of high levels of crystalline silica, a carcinogen which is found in soil, sand, granite, and many other minerals (quartz being the most common form.) When it is chipped, blasted, sanded, or grinded by workers, it becomes a fine dust that can be inhaled. Exposure to the lungs can lead to deadly complications.

  • “Fracking” is a drilling technology that squeezes natural gas out of rock.
  • “Hydro-fracking” or high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing is when drillers inject water and chemicals into rock in order to break it. After the high pressure breaks the rock, sand and other proppants (chemicals) are injected to hold the cracks open so the gas can flow out (
  • The crystalline silica is used as the sand component.
  • Mining and energy companies collect the crystalline silica sand from sand pits in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and along the Mississippi rivers for crystalline silica to use in hydro-fracking.

The Dangers

Information below provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the American Journal of Epidemiology.

  • Crystalline silica is a known carcinogen
  • A study by the American Journal of Epidemiology indicated a link between high lung cancer rates and industrial sand workers exposed to crystalline silica
  • Breathing crystalline silica dust can cause silicosis
  • Silicosis occurs when scar tissue forms around the lungs, limiting their ability to take in oxygen
  • There is no cure for silicosis
  • Silicosis makes victims susceptible to other lung ailments like tuberculosis

Crystalline silica is not just dangerous for workers; it can also affect anyone near the mining sites.

  • According to, an information organization, the particles can be carried by winds more than 20 miles from the site of the mining operation
  • These can injure or kill people far removed from the mining area
Contact an Experienced Workplace Accident Attorney

Thomas J. Henry fight to protect the rights of workplace accident victims. If you have been injured by a defective product or piece of equipment while on the job or if your employer has not put the safety of its employees first, choose Thomas J. Henry. The goal of our offices is to not only protect your rights, but to send a message to your employer so the same tragedy does not happen again. Contact our offices day or night, 24/7.


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