Gravel Mining is a prominent industry in Elk River. This is due to the abundant supply and quality of aggregate found in the area as well as the reasonable transportation costs. Aggregate mined in Elk River is used in the process of constructing roads, buildings, and infrastructure.
In 1994, the city worked with the local aggregate companies to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). An EIS is an in-depth analysis used for major developmental projects that will significantly change the environment. The statement covers social and economic influences, as well as environmental impact, and looks at alternate ways to process with the project.
The city created a Gravel Mining Overlay District for these operations and created an ordinance based on the findings of the EIS. In addition to the ordinance, yearly licensing is required for gravel operation in the City of Elk River.
Aggregate is a broad term used to describe sand, gravel, and crushed rock mixtures. These materials can be further crushed, washed, and blended to meet specifications required for their use. Aggregate materials are the basic ingredients for a variety of construction projects. These materials are known by other names including: aggregate, construction aggregate, sand and gravel, crushed rock, and construction sand and gravel.
Minnesota's aggregate industry mines three types of materials:
- Sand and gravel mined from glacial or alluvial deposits - this material represents the majority of aggregate production and is sometimes referred to as "natural" aggregate.
- Crushed carbonate rock - mined from bedrock in southeastern Minnesota and in the metropolitan area.
- Crushed rock mined from granite, quartzite, or trap rock elsewhere in the state.
In addition to aggregate deposits that are mined, "recycled aggregate" can be made from demolition material that is crushed and cleaned of impurities.
Every person living in Minnesota experiences about 58 pounds of aggregate per day without knowing it. This figure, roughly equivalent to 10.5 tons per person per year, is the amount of aggregate needed annually to maintain and construct roads, develop infrastructure, support building and construction projects, and for use in industrial applications.
Aggregate mining contributes to the economy. It is closely tied to economic indicators so it experiences cyclic swings in demand. The mining industry also provides a significant number of jobs; approximately 10,000 people are employed in the aggregate industry in Minnesota.
Aggregate is an essential raw material used by a number of related industries to produce higher value products. The major industries include:
- Asphalt pavement and concrete
- Ready mixed concrete products
- Building contractors
- State and local government
Aggregate resources are not evenly distributed throughout the state. The deposits depend on past geologic processes. Elk River has a very abundant supply of aggregate due to the glacial deposits. Elk River is a good location for mining because of the ample supply, reasonable transportation costs, and quality of the aggregate.
- 10.5 tons of aggregate are experienced per person per year.
- A new home requires about 120 tons of aggregate materials.
- One mile of four-lane highway uses about 20,000 tons of aggregate.
- About 50% of the total amount of aggregate consumed each year is used for public works projects such as roads, dams, airports, and public buildings.
- The remaining 50% is used by the private sector for new homes, commercial buildings, railroads, and agriculture.
Reclamation is performed in order to:
- Control possible adverse environmental effects of mining.
- Preserve the natural resources.
- Encourage the planning of future mineland utilization.
- Promote the orderly development of mining.
- Encourage good mining practices via Mineland Reclamation.