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ARM NEWSLETTER

SEPTEMBER 2013

Aggre gate & Re ady M i x
Association of Minnesota
The steady, quiet reclamation of the
Nelson aggregate mine

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The funny thing about aggregate mines is how
invisible most of them are despite their often massive
size. Like cell towers, we live near them, drive by
them, don’t notice them and can’t enjoy our lifestyles
without them.

The Nelson mine has operated this way since 1954
when the J.L. Shiely Company leased the land from
the Schilling family of lower Grey Cloud Island.
Eventually, Aggregate Industries US leased the
property in the late 1980s.

The Nelson mine (or plant) operated by Aggregate
Industries US is a great example. You can drive
through Cottage Grove and St. Paul Park to fish from
a one-lane bridge on Grey Cloud Island and all you
hear is rippling water, rustling poplar leaves, and the
songs of robins and sparrows. And yet, a mere halfmile from that bridge, is one of the largest active
aggregate mines in Minnesota.

A common aggregate mining practice is creating a
reclamation plan, described in contracts with
landowners and permits with local governments.

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Each year and in all but the coldest months, about
one million tons of sand and gravel is extracted from
the 2000-acre site. It’s plopped onto a two-mile
conveyor system; piled into 16-story heaps; crushed,
washed and sorted, and scooped and carried to the
Mississippi River. There, barges are loaded for daily
trips northward to St. Paul and Minneapolis where
the sand and gravel is unloaded at Yard A and Yard D
(respectively), piled 16 stories high again, and
scooped and poured into dump trucks on their way to
ready mix plants and construction sites.

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“I start at Nelson where we put together five barges
and leave at 6:30 a.m.,” said Barge Pilot Steve Plan.
“We go up the river to Larson (limestone mine) and
pick up three more and finally arrive at Yard A (near
downtown St. Paul) with eight barges five hours
later.”

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ARM OF MINNESOTA

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The Nelson plant is no different. From the start, the
landowner and aggregate producers had plans to
reclaim the mine. Five years ago, the plans were
changed to restore the original ecotype that Ojibway
Indians would have recognized 200 years ago.

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“Before European settlement, the ecotype of Grey
Cloud Island was mostly oak savanna,” said Bob
Bieraugel, manager of environmental and land
services for Aggregate Industries US Central Region.
“For years, we planted hundreds of spruce, pines,
ash, and locust trees with limited success. Aggregate
Industries US and the landowner enlisted the help of
a local nonprofit, Great River Greening, to develop an
oak savanna plan.”

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The City of Cottage Grove approved the change and
the savanna is beginning to take shape. Every year,
Bieraugel and Nelson Plant Manager Bob Kurz renew
the decades-old permit with the city. They keep the
landowner informed. And they work with Great River
Greening to restore the savanna landscape.

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(CONTINUED)

FRED CORRIGAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

952- 707-1250

www.chooseconcrete.com

MEMBER NEWSLETTER

SEPTEMBER 2013

(continued from p. 1)

New oaks at the Nelson mine. Photo credit: Great
River Greening.

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The steady pulse of this large sand and gravel mine is
intimately tied to the steady growth of the built
environment of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Over the
years, citizens have enjoyed it but don’t appreciate the
sand and gravel at the base of it all.

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The mine has supplied aggregates for sporting events
we experience at the Metrodome, Mariucci Arena,
Target Center, Excel Energy Center, and Target Field.

ARM OF MINNESOTA

It also produced aggregates used in bridges we cross
on Robert Street, Washington Avenue, I-35W, and

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Lowry Street, and for recreation we participate in at
Town Green in Maplewood and Centennial Lakes in
Edina.

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Some 60 years after J.L. Shiely Company began

extracting sand and gravel, new construction
naturally has slowed and with that, the movement of
aggregates on barges. Certainly, the cessation of
construction in the past five years also diminished
river travel.

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But work is picking up again at the Nelson mine as
the economy turns as slowly as one of its barges. And
the dredging, conveying, and transporting of
aggregates on and off the island form a surprisingly
quiet backdrop as reclamation activities proceed.

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Ospreys and blue birds nest in structures built by
mining staff. Foxes and pups trot through the brush.
New oak trees and natural grasses are fenced and
watered. And the Mississippi River runs its course
along the banks of Grey Cloud Island.

FRED CORRIGAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

952- 707-1250

www.chooseconcrete.com