Tuesday, August 11, 2015

US Silica Sand Mine

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I was driving east along Dee Bennet Road to Ottawa, IL, after seeing the Starved Rock Lock and Dam when my peripheral vision spotted a quarry on the left. I turned around and stopped at the Bears Den because that is where I saw the gap in the tree line. I took this picture to remind me later where I found this spot because it was across the road.

After eating lunch at the Bears Den, I continued towards Ottawa. I turned north on the first major street I encountered (Boyce Memorial Drive) because I noticed that I could no longer see the I&M Canal and the Rock Island. This was the view along that drive --- a grassy buffer area to a tree lined fence.

When I got to a sign confirming that I was looking at a sand mine, I turned around because I wanted to take the "river road" into Ottawa, and I spotted a small gap in the trees.
This mine goes on the visit-during-Fall-after-the-leaves-have-fallen "todo" list. I took some other pictures trying to get the conveyor belts and buildings that are on the other side of the "hole," but the camera focused on the fence and leaves instead of the background. (The lens has a manual focus mode. Now I'm motivated to learn how to use it to force the lens to focus at infinity.)

Looking at a satellite view, I discovered that I was looking at rather small parts of the mine from the road. I don't know if some of those "white blobs" on the map belong to other sand companies. The first photo above teaches me that the "lighter green blobs" on the satellite image are abandoned mines filled with water. I do know that the mines between Utica and Ottawa are a major supplier of silica sand for the country because the St. Peter Sandstone Formation outcrops along here. There had been a boom in sand mining because the hardness, size and roundness of the grains in this formation are ideal for fracing.

I also determined that the railroad crossing a few blocks west of Bears Den was an industrial spur that serves the sand mine and the Pilkington glass plant that is further south. This spur has connections on the north end to both the CSX/Rock Island and Illinois Railway/CB&Q/Ottawa, Oswego & Fox River Valley railroads.

1 comment:

  1. The north side of the river is pretty much mined out, and I think the property is all the old Ottawa Silica reserves that were bought out by US Silica. Most of the reserves now are along IL 71 on the south side of the river, where the sand is mined and then mixed with water to form a slurry and sent through a large pipe under the IL River to the processing plant in Naplate. It's quite an operation, and I live on a property surrounded by the reserves on the south side of the river.