January 12, 2012 – The LaSalle County Board today approved an application for a massive open pit sand mine next to Starved Rock State Park, despite objections from local residents and a growing outcry from citizens across the state who had urged the County to protect Starved Rock, prime farmland, and local residents from the impacts of the project.
“We’re very disappointed that LaSalle County has put Starved Rock at risk. There are many places to mine sand, but there is only one Starved Rock,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter.
The mine site includes a state-recognized natural area, and would be adjacent to Starved Rock State Park. The mine would pump millions of gallons of water per day for its operations, and those withdrawals threaten springs and marshlands within the Park. In addition, water pollution from mine operations could drain through the Park, its ravines, and canyons, which are an important outdoor recreation asset for Illinois. Over two million people each year visit the state park, which recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of its protection.
Despite strong opposition from local residents and thousands of comments against the mine from around Illinois, the County Board appeared to give minimal consideration to concerns about the project.
“I am saddened and angered that the LaSalle County Board failed to recognize that Starved Rock is an important economic engine for the area. Instead they have jeopardized existing tourism jobs for a few new ones that promise to pollute our air and water while degrading the experience for all Starved Rock visitors,” said Tracy Fox, a Sierra Club member who attended today’s county board meeting.
In the wake of LaSalle County’s approval, the project now must be approved by state agencies that will examine the mine’s impacts on water quality, archeological resources, natural areas, and the state park.
“The fight to protect Starved Rock from this open pit mine is far from over,” said Darin. “Starved Rock is one of Illinois’ most special places, and citizens across the state are rallying to protect it.”