I often hear people who support the silica sand mine in Union say it will bring jobs. That seems to be the end of the thought.
I haven’t seen these people at any of the town meetings and, in four meetings, I’ve not seen one person stand up and say they were for the silica sand mine except the mining company and Waupaca Foundry representatives.
The townspeople have asked the mining company’s representative how many jobs would be created and have gotten answers of 10, 15 and 80. The number of 80 seems to have come out as opposition has grown.
Here’s some other questions about these supposed jobs; What are the jobs and what qualifications are needed? How many truck drivers will be employed and where will they be hired from? How many jobs will be short term getting the mine up and running and how many will be long term? Will there be layoffs in the winter months or when the sand becomes stockpiled or the price of sand drops? Will people be hired from the local community or will they be brought in from somewhere else? And, lastly, will the employees receive benefits and how much will they be paid?
One person I spoke to says he wants the mine because he wants a job there, and yet, he has no idea what that job might be or how much it would pay. I had to think that one should know more about a job before anyone decides if they want it. After all, even slaves had jobs!
People are also concerned about how the sand mine will impact jobs at Waupaca Foundry. However, representatives from the foundry have been at the meetings and have only said that the reason they support the proposed mine is that A. F. Gelhar has agreed to give them a favorable price on sand and it would be more profitable for the foundry because the cost of shipping sand is high and their current suppliers are two hours away. The Waupaca Foundry has experienced rising costs as the market for sand used for hydraulic fracturing has driven the price up but the price could drop, too. The representative from the Waupaca Foundry has never said that jobs at the Waupaca Foundry would be in jeopardy if they didn’t get this sand mine.
The idea already at work of people’s mind is one of fear in a worrisome economy. Regardless of whether the mine goes through or not, decisions about the continuation of the foundry will not be based on the one aspect of how much sand costs.
Maybe we should be more afraid of losing the jobs related to the tourists who come here. We can’t have spoiled and ugly land, loud diesel trucks rolling by our lakes and campgrounds every few minutes and expect tourists to want to visit and spend money here. It is unlikely that those jobs and businesses will continue to exist under those conditions.
So, when I hear that the mine will bring jobs, I think we should pause and think about how vague that is. It doesn’t have meaning without it being committed to some kind of contract. And there is nothing, not even a promise that could be broken tomorrow.