A Permit Written in Sand

A potentially unlawful permit was terminated after the Ste. Genevieve community raised concerns. But mining giant NexGen Silica isn’t backing down.

This past year, despite widespread opposition from the community, the mining company NexGen Silica had been seeking authorization from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to construct and operate a silica mine in Saint Genevieve County. 

With community organizations Operation Sand and Friends of Hawn, we represented Sierra Club in opposing NexGen’s application for a general operating permit to discharge its stormwater and process wastewater to the waters of the state. The Department had issued the permit authorizing the discharges in December 2022. With our colleagues, we appealed. 

The Administrative Hearing Commission conducted an evidentiary hearing on the permit in April 2023. Together with our colleagues we presented evidence showing that the Department had arbitrarily deprived concerned citizens of their right to a public hearing, that NexGen had failed to include with its permit application information to apprise the Department of the potential harm to the State’s waters, and that the Department unlawfully had failed to evaluate whether particular pollutants had the potential to cause harm and degrade the waters that would receive the discharges from the mine. 

The proposed mine site is located just two miles from Hawn State Park, Hickory Canyons and Pickle Springs’ Watershed. (Image credit: Operation Sand.)

After the hearing, while we were briefing the issues for the hearing commissioner, NexGen wrote to the Department and asked that its permit be terminated “in light of procedural concerns raised at the AHC hearing.” The Department has terminated the permit.

However, the fight isn’t over. Clark Bollinger, NexGen Silica’s general manager, promised the Ste. Genevieve Herald that “the development of our overall plan is a long process, and we are confident that we will acquire our required permits to move forward with our original plan.” Continued engagement from Friends of Hawn, Operation Sand, Sierra Club and Great Rivers will be critical to ensure the health of Ste. Genevieve residents and the surrounding environment is not compromised in NexGen Silica’s quest to spin sand into gold.   

(Header image via Operation Sand.)

Eva Kappas is a student at Brown University studying International and Public Affairs and Hispanic Studies. A native St. Louisan, Eva is invested in protecting the people and places she calls home. She is excited by the potential to transform our electrical grid with renewable energy. In her free time, she can be found running in Forest Park, writing short stories, and practicing Spanish with her friends and family.

Great Rivers Environmental Law Center is a non-profit 501(c)3 environmental law center providing free and low cost services to protect the environment and public health. They work to promote the public health by encouraging cleaner energy, improved environmental performance by businesses, and more efficient transportation and land use, thereby achieving cleaner air and water, and improving the quality of life in the region. Learn more at www.greatriverslaw.org.

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