“The Price of Sand” is a documentary about the frac sand mining boom in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Due to a rapid increase in demand, pure silica sand has become a valuable commodity, and mines are opening here at a rapid rate.

The silica used in hydraulic fracturing (aka : “fracking”), has other uses– glass manufacturing and toothpaste, for instance — and a few established mines have been in operation here for decades. But now, new companies have arrived, and land with accessible silica deposits is selling for high prices.

In addition to a bonanza for a few lucky landowners, the new mines promise jobs and economic stimulus for the small towns and rural areas nearby.

The Film

Two years ago, an oil company bought a tract of land in near my mother’s house, in rural Goodhue County, Minnesota. The prospect of an open pit mine led to the formation of an opposition group, a series of public meetings, and a temporary county moratorium on frac sand mining.

I’m a filmmaker, so I visited people who live near existing mines and interviewed them. They told me stories–intense truck traffic, plummeting property values, toxic silica dust–a catalog of complaints that surprised me with its variety and intensity. I made clips from the interviews and posted them on YouTube.

YouTube shorts can provoke discussion (56,000 views so far), but the story of this mining boom is more complex.  Good people are on both sides of the issue, and sometimes the facts aren’t obvious.  “The Price of Sand” is a 1-hour documentary film that grew out of my short YouTube video project–more extensive, with new stories–a more comprehensive look at what’s happening.

The goal of this project:   find the real price of frac sand.  Not just in dollars, but in friendships, communities and the future of our region.

Jim Tittle • St. Paul, MN • director

DVDs  available at

silica dust

So small you can’t see it, but sharper than a knife. Silica dust.


6 Responses “THE PRICE OF SAND” →
  1. They banned asbestos after many years of use. We know silica produces silicosis, so where are peoples brains? Politicians protect the money but NOT the PEOPLE.


  2. Jim Gurley

    April 4, 2013

    Thanks to this director for an EXCELLENT film. One cost of frac sand is the sacrifice of centuries of potential tourism in one of Earth’s precious and unique areas, all for a few jobs. SAND = JOBS LOST


  3. Jane Justesen

    April 4, 2013

    I would like a copy of your film. We want to show it to town of bridge creek and Augusta. It is outstanding. Please tell me how we can get a copy. We are in the fight of our lives.

    • On the main page of this website, there’s a “Buy Now” PayPal button on the right side of the page. This will is for buying a DVD of the film. If you can’t use PayPal, or if you have other issues, please email me from this website. Thanks!


  4. Jane Justesen

    April 4, 2013

    We viewed this outstanding film this evening in Chippewa Falls. It truly is a work of art as it depicts the beauty of our area before and the devastation that is being brought upon so many of us in the name of jobs. Jobs that do not really come and if they do they are not local. I just purchased 2 copies so we can hold viewings in Augusta and surrounding areas. It can be so disheartening when you learn just how truly ruthless and heartless these owners are. They are not held to the same standards as us and are allowed to break the ordinances with no apparent consequences. Our local government officials turn their head and shut their ears to the truth of how these operations are actually operating. They made statements at their permit hearing that they now are reversing less than 8 months later ie blasting. Thank you for providing this film for us to keep up the work we all need to do to save our towns for the next generation.

  5. How many jobs will it really produce and for how long? This is the justification used over and over for the Keystone Pipeline too. Surely we can have better jobs that don’t destroy people’s homes , communitites and environments? Thanks for bringing it to attention


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