In fracking, sand is the new gold, but health concerns rise

|By:, SA News Editor

The U.S. shale bonanza is creating a boom in fracking sand, whose use has increased 25% since 2011, with a further 20% rise expected in the next two years, WSJ reports.

It takes 25 railcars of sand, on average, to frack one well, and companies are experimenting with increasing the amount of sand they use to see if it boosts output.

Sand mining companies have benefited greatly: Shares in Hi-Crush Partners (HCLP) have jumped 59% since Aug. 2012, while U.S. Silica (SLCA) has doubled since the company went public in 2012.

But concerns are growing over pollution from silica dust, which has been linked to cancer and lung diseases; the huge increase in demand for sand has some believing that some companies are operating with a sharper focus on production than on how that production is achieved.