Monday, November 18, 2013

Mining Official Explains What’s Next For Wilderness Area

800px-2013_Adirondack_Land_Exchange_MapNow that NYCO Minerals has won the right to purchase a 200-acre parcel in the Jay Mountain Wilderness, the company must decide whether it wants the land.

Starting in January, NYCO will drill a series of test bores to determine whether the bedrock under the parcel, known as Lot 8, contains enough wollastonite to make mining worthwhile.

Mark Buckley, NYCO’s environmental manager, said the company expects to drill eight to twelve holes over a few months. Each hole will be two inches in diameter and perhaps 200 to 250 feet deep.

NYCO will send core samples from the drilling to a lab to determine the quantity and purity of the wollastonite, a mineral used in plastics, ceramics, automobiles, and other products. The analysis could take a few months. Once that’s done, Buckley said, the company will prepare an economic analysis and decide whether to go ahead with mining.

Although drilling has yet to occur, NYCO clearly believes Lot 8 has plenty of wollastonite. The company spent $539,000 in a successful campaign for Proposition 5, the controversial amendment to the state constitution that will allow NYCO to purchase the property from the state even though it lies in the forever-wild Forest Preserve.

Buckley’s best estimate is that Lot 8 contains 400,000 tons of wollastonite. Depending on the mineral’s purity and the market, he said, NYCO could fetch anywhere from $350 to $900 a ton.

That works out to $140 million to $360 million. If the mine is active for a full decade—a reasonable possibility—then it will generate $14 million to $36 million in revenue a year.

Of course, these numbers are speculative, but they give an idea of the money at stake.

Lot 8 is next to an active mine that is almost exhausted. NYCO also owns wollastonite reserves in a nearby property known as Oak Hill. Between Oak Hill and Lot 8, the company should have enough to mine for thirty-five years, according to Buckley. He added that this will make it easier to compete for long-term contracts.

NYCO employs about 100 people and has a payroll of $6 million. That probably won’t change, but Buckley said the company may hire a few extra people if sales increase.

Assuming it acquires Lot 8, NYCO will need to prepare a mining plan and submit it to the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency for approval. It would address such issues as mitigating noise and dust, protecting wetlands, and managing stormwater runoff. Buckley said the drafting and review of the plan could take more than a year. Thus, he doesn’t expect mining to begin before 2015.

The document also will include the company’s plan for reclaiming the land once the mine is closed.

Under Proposition 5, NYCO will be required to return Lot 8 to the state. Although the parcel is 200 acres, Buckley predicts that the company will disturb only about fifty acres. He said the mine’s pit will be partially filled with waste rock, covered with topsoil, and planted with trees. The sides of the pit will be sloped and terraced with the aim of making it look, eventually, like a natural depression.

In addition to returning Lot 8, NYCO will be required to donate lands worth at least $1 million. The tentative plan is to give the state six parcels totaling 1,500 acres. Five of the parcels abut the Jay Mountain Wilderness. The other borders the North Branch of the Boquet River.

Mining could not begin until the state legislature approves the land swap.

And what happens if NYCO decides against mining?

The land will remain in the Forest Preserve, and the company will be required to give the state an amount of land equal to that disturbed by the test drilling. The drilling itself will not mar the landscape much, but the company will need to clear trails through the woods and may build gravel roads to bring machinery to the test sites. NYCO will be required to restore the disturbed land as much as possible.

Map of  proposed NYCO land swap provided by NYSDEC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Phil Brown

Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack.

Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing.

He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.

Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.




76 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Phil, what doe the state do? Give NYCO some type of Temporary Revocable Permit to do the drilling? Seems a weird use for a TRP. Is that legal?

  2. George L says:

    Can the Legislature grant or deny final approval for any reason, or does the amendment circumscribe the Legislature’s power or discretion?

    Said otherwise, what keeps the Legislature from just saying no?

    • Paul says:

      “Said otherwise, what keeps the Legislature from just saying no?”

      Under the right circumstances it would be the constitution that keeps them from saying no. The legislature can’t go against the will of the people. That is how it works.

      But the company does have to follow all the necessary rules and get the required permits and follow their guidelines.

  3. Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

    Paul, the constitutional amendment authorizes NYCO to drill for mineral sampling.

    George, the amendment authorizes the state to convey Lot 8 to NYCO if the legislature approves the land swap. I’m not a lawyer, but the way it’s worded, I don’t think it compels the state to go through with the swap. However, at this stage, I doubt the state would go against the will of the electorate. If it did, a legal battle might ensue.

    It’s worth bearing in mind that the proposition voted on by the people is not the amendment itself. It summarizes the amendment. For those interested, here is the full text of the amendment:

    “Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions, the state may authorize NYCO Minerals, Inc. to engage in mineral sampling operations, solely at its expense, to determine the quantity and quality of wollastonite on approximately 200 acres of forest preserve land contained in lot 8, Stowers survey, town of Lewis, Essex county provided that NYCO Minerals, Inc. shall provide the data and information derived from such drilling to the state for appraisal purposes. Subject to legislative approval of the tracts to be exchanged prior to the actual transfer of title, the state may subsequently convey said lot 8 to NYCO Minerals, Inc., and, in exchange therefor, NYCO Minerals, Inc. shall convey to the state for incorporation into the forest preserve not less than the same number of acres of land, on condition that the assessed value of the land to be conveyed to the state shall total not less than one million dollars. When NYCO Minerals, Inc. terminates all mining operations on such lot 8 it shall remediate the site and convey title to such lot back to the state of New York for inclusion in the forest preserve. In the event that lot 8 is not conveyed to NYCO Minerals, Inc. pursuant to this paragraph, NYCO Minerals, Inc. nevertheless shall convey to the state for incorporation into the forest preserve not less than the same number of acres or land that is disturbed by any mineral sampling operations conducted on said lot 8 pursuant to this paragraph on condition that the legislature shall determine that the lands to be received by the state are equal to or greater than the value of the lands disturbed by the mineral sampling operations.”

    • George says:

      As I read the full text of the amendment (thanks Phil), it authorizes the Legislature to use its discretion to swap lands (the operative words are “the state MAY subsequently convey”).

      In law, may does not mean shall.

      This amendment, obviously hastily drawn, only authorizes drilling without any further approval by the voters, the Legislature, or the Executive branch (i.e. DEC).

      It does NOT mandate a land swap. If the Legislature declines to engage in the land swap, it is not ignoring the will of the people, who did not vote for or approve a land swap. They approved drilling.

      So, the battle is far from over for those who choose to fight on in Albany!

  4. Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

    I should have said the constitutional amendment authorizes the state to allow NYCO to drill. Not sure if this would be via a TRP or what.

  5. Dan Crane Dan Crane says:

    This is good news! It should give me plenty of time to get over to Lot #8 and do some bushwhacking to see what the NY voters gave away to NYCO Minerals.

    • Paul says:

      You should also check out what we got since you will be in the neighborhood. As I understand it some of that is adjacent to the Jay Mt. Wilderness and will make it larger that before the swap. Glad to see that if they end up mining it there will only be 50 acres of the 200 disturbed. That makes it an even better deal for us. 1700 acres of undisturbed land for 50 acres. That is 34 times what we gave away by my calculation. No wonder the larger environmental organizations agreed with this.

      • Dan Crane Dan Crane says:

        The new lands probably will not be in state ownership by next summer, so it is doubtful that I will get to explore them as well.

        From what I understand, much of this potentially new state land has been cut over, so if true, it is hardly undisturbed. Good attempt on the positive spin though!

        • Paul says:

          No spin just an observation. Maybe the land they are looking to add isn’t posted? I hope we get some good land. In a hundred years it will all be looking pretty good no matter what we get. Perhaps not good for our exploration but good for those that will come after us. Like I said I am glad to hear that 150 of the 200 acres in question is probably not going to be disturbed as I had originally understood was going to happen. It only takes about 10 minutes to bushwhack across 50 acres so you will survive.

          • Laura says:

            If there’s Wollastonite under the entire 200 acres, it will all be disturbed & then, when finished, they’ll be back to request add’l land.

        • M.P. Heller says:

          Dan-

          You could always ask for permission to bushwhack the private lands if you really wanted to see what was being offered.

          Permission of course is at the discression of the current owner, but asking in a polite way and assuring the owners you won’t disturb anything would be a good first step in trying to obtain that permission.

          If you are really interested in the big picture here it certainly couldn’t hurt to try.

      • David says:

        When I look at that map I don’t see 1500 acres, I see 2 distinct parts. One is ~900 acres and this is if all the adjacent eligible land is classified as wilderness. The possible wilderness will almost certainly be smaller and will be split between Hurricane Mountain and Jay Mountain wildernesses. The rest goes to the Taylor Ponds Wild Forest. Its 200 for <900 in my eyes.

        I have a suspicion that the most wanted parcels (Hardwood Hill and Arnold Mountain) will be the first to be dropped from the deal if lot 8 is less valuable than we've all been told, because NYCO doesn't yet own these.

        Also I won't believe any mine estimate until after cores are drilled.

        My cynical outlook of the day.

        • Bill Ingersoll Bill Ingersoll says:

          There have been a lot of naïve comments from NYCO supporters about how this is going to add 1500 acres to the Jay Mountain Wilderness, or somehow improve recreation. But when you look at this map it’s obvious that it’s all chopped up with public roads, meaning that very little of it will qualify as wilderness additions.

          And most of the parcels are little more than road frontage. So great, when you drive down those paved roads you see a lot of trees. But if you park your car and walk in a straight line for more than 5 minutes you will be on private land.

          Wow, what a recreational benefit. Forget the Essex Chain, let’s all go and explore these leftover scraps.

          • Paul says:

            “NYCO supporters” Also known as supporters of increasing the Forest Preserve in this case.

          • Laura says:

            It’s unfortunate that more people didn’t do their homework about what land was being offered as most would not have voted for this if they really understood that it’s chopped up into little lots. The info was there but people chose to believe the spin instead. What a tragic joke! Even more tragic is that two eco groups in the park supported it so forcefully & swayed many to the Yes side of the vote! Forever Wild no more!!!

        • Paul says:

          “The possible wilderness will almost certainly be smaller and will be split between Hurricane Mountain and Jay Mountain wildernesses.”

          I don’t follow? Smaller than 200 acres? How can adding land to the Wilderness make it smaller. One parcel alone is over 300 acres, and it looks like it will improve access to the Wilderness area. Even the 150 acres of the 200 that apparently will not be disturbed will eventually be added back to the Jay Mt. Wilderness?

          Seems like a more than fair trade for us?

          • David says:

            Let’s look at the parcells individually.

            Arnold Mountain 102 acres, probably will all go to Jay Mountain Wilderness.

            Hardwood Hill 185 acres, south of the road will probably go to wilderness (~50 acres) but north of the road will probably go to the Taylor Ponds Wild Forest.

            Tom’s Hill 360 acres, south of Jay Mountain road (~250 acres) will probably go to Hurricane Mountain Wilderness. North of the road will probably go to Jay Mountain Wilderness (~110 acres)

            NE Wilderness Trust 260 acres, north of Jay Mountain road will go to Jay Mountain Wilderness (~100 acres), south will go to Taylor Ponds Wild Forest(~160).

            Derby Brook 300 acres, only the small area between Jay Mountain Road and the parking area as well as the triangle formed by Derby Brook and the existing wilderness boundary will go to Jay Mountain Wilderness (~100 acres). The rest will go to Taylor Ponds Wild Forest.

            Deerhead 300 acres, all to Taylor Ponds Wild Forest.

            That brings my total added to Jay Mountain Wilderness to ~360, total added to Hurricane Mountain Wilderness ~250 acres, and the rest will be added to the Taylor Ponds Wild Forest. That’s not nearly the amazing deal that you make it out to be.

            In addition the first 3 parcels to not be included in the deal if the land value is determined to be lower than expected (NE Wilderness Trust, Arnold Hill, and Hardwood Hill) are by far the most lucrative.

            Finally what are on earth do you mean when you say even the 150 acres that will be added back will be more than they disturbed? That land is land we already have!? It can ONLY be lost!

            • Laura says:

              If it wasn’t for the fabulous job Behan Communications did of spinning this for NYCO down in NYC at the tune of $558,000, this would have never passed. I have to wonder if there is some way to get the legislature to not approve the final vote! There were many questions raised abt the legality of it during the debating before the vote!

            • Paul says:

              I am just saying I am glad that we will eventually get back 150 undisturbed acres that we had to swap. It is only lost temporarily. That is something quite unique about this particular land swap as opposed to other past swaps. Your math looks pretty good. That doesn’t make the wilderness smaller it makes it larger. In total that looks like 1507 acres.

              • Paul says:

                Granted that it is not all going to become Wilderness. I follow that.

              • Ed says:

                Actually,we don’t know at this time how much land will be disturbed. It very likely could be the full 200 acres. And as they stated, they are just partialy filling the crater in & creating a “natural depression”.

            • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

              David, I would say the Hardwood Hill parcel is a candidate for the Jay Mountain Wilderness. The “road” on the map is a logging road. There are a few hunting camps back there, but I assume they would go.

              • Paul says:

                That one also looks like it will greatly improve access to that side of the Wilderness area. You could rate that as a positive or a negative depending on your perspective.

              • David says:

                Thank you. When I was writing my breakdown I wasn’t sure where that piece would fall, and I was debating if I should specifically state I was unsure about Hardwood Hill.

                That brings the total to Jay Mountain Wilderness to 495 acres. I wish we could have added it some other way.

  6. Paul says:

    “the assessed value of the land to be conveyed to the state shall total not less than one million dollars”

    In fact this could be even more than 1500 acres if the state spends the money wisely.

  7. Charlie S says:

    You’re too funny Dan! If you do go there please don’t let us know if there really are old growth trees,or other sensitive species. I’d rather not know myself.

    • Dan Crane Dan Crane says:

      Sorry, Charlie.

      If there are old growth or anything else interesting on Lot #8, I will do my level best to publicize it here at the Almanack and anywhere else that will let me.

      You will have to keep your eyes closed!

  8. Philip Terrie Phil Terrie says:

    “The drilling itself will not mar the landscape much, but the company will need to clear trails through the woods and may build gravel roads to bring machinery to the test sites.”

    Building roads for heavy machinery doesn’t “mar the landscape”?

    • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

      Of course, Phil. That’s why the following clause begins with “though.” I meant the drilled holes themselves will not mar the landscape much. They’re only two inches in diameter. The marring will come in the form of roads and cleared paths. They also may cut branches above the holes to make room for the drilling machinery.

    • Bill Ingersoll Bill Ingersoll says:

      Since the drilling can’t occur without the road building, I’d say it all qualifies as a single action. No need for the “though.” The desire to conduct the test drilling will cause the construction of a road, which will mar the landscape. Enough said.

      • Phil Brown says:

        I disagree. I think it’s worthwhile to make a distinction between the damage caused by the drilling and that caused by the road building. It’s understood that the roads will be built for the drilling.

  9. PEter says:

    The fifty acres is good news. And when Dick Booth comes out in support, prop 5 seems like more of the right call.

  10. Pete Nelson Pete Nelson says:

    Boy I have to say I’m having flashbacks of the corporate power games I described from Cleveland days in my column some weeks ago. Here are calculations from Phil’s article, directly from NYCO Environmental Manager Mark Buckley: estimated revenues of between $140 and $360 million from Lot 8. And jobs? “NYCO employs about 100 people and has a payroll of $6 million. That probably won’t change, but Buckley said the company may hire a few extra people if sales increase.” Italics are mine. A few extra people… wow, sure.

    So revenues in the hundreds of millions, payroll in the single millions, same as before… not much help for our communities.

    In other words the acquisition of Lot 8 is making someone a lot of money, but not anyone in the vicinity.

    Do supporters of Prop 5 actually read these numbers with any logic? Do these statements about revenue and jobs bother anyone?

    Forever Wild was compromised for this, for massive revenues headed out of the region.

    Public benefit indeed.

    • Mike K says:

      Pete,
      Let’s be fair with your figures. The $140-$360 million is an estimated 35-year total. You can’t compare it to a one-year $6 million payroll and suggest that the difference is profit for a greedy corporation. Isn’t it more accurate to compare the $140-$360 million potential revenue with total payroll of 35 years X $6 million for a total of $210 million? And I’m no mining expert, but isn’t it logical to expect that mining has expenses other than payroll… like buying and repairing heavy equipment… not to mention pencils, pens, paper, computers and all the other supplies of a modern business (some of which logically will be purchased from local sources)?
      I supported Prop. 5 because debates like this convinced me it could be in the long-term best interest of the park. I hate the fact that it comes at the cost of a strip mine. Well-intentioned people can reach differing opinions on any complex issue. But let’s be fair with the numbers.

      • Pete Nelson Pete Nelson says:

        Whoops! That’s two whoopsies in a week – I’m losing my edge. Mea Culpa. I wrote that comment sloppily and implied a comparison that is wrong – on several levels, actually – and thus grossly unfair. Thanks for catching it.

        However, your comparison is wrong as well. First of all the projections are for ten years, not 35. So if you want to do a direct comparison it is $14 – $36 million per year of added revenue versus a payroll of $6 million, which they already pay. Even that comparison is not entirely meaningful without seeing everything else that goes into NYCO’s profit equation, since they have plenty of other expense besides payroll. But it’s a telling scale.

        in any case the operative part of my comment was the “already pay the payroll” part. They are not adding jobs: that implies this is a very profitable move for NYCO (note also that the revenue projections dwarf the value of the lands they will give to the State no matter what numbers you use).

        I’m not against profit – I’m a capitalist. But it would be most interesting indeed to see a detailed assessment of the positive economic impact to the region. If jobs are not being added you’re talking a lot of pencils. and if they are not adding jobs then there are not a lot of new business supplies of any kind. And do they really buy their office supplies in Jay?

        $14 – $36 million per year is a mighty healthy number in the Adirondacks. I’m skeptical the region will see much of a fraction of that.

        • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

          Pete, no, they are not adding jobs (or at most a few). However, they will be extending the life of the jobs that exist. I am puzzled by the argument that this somehow is not the case because NYCO has other wollastonite deposits nearby. Yes, it would be interesting to know how much of the revenue will stay in the region. The payroll amounts to 15% to 40%, based on figures cited in the article.

          • Bill Ingersoll Bill Ingersoll says:

            Let’s not start this nonsense again.

            In the world of supply and demand, Lot 8 / Prop 5 only addresses supply … which by itself has no bearing whatsoever on labor.

            It’s a big world, and Lewis is just one little dot on the globe. Any number of factors could affect demand for NYCO’s product, which will in turn impact the need for the mine and the length of its operation. NYCO isn’t some socialist commune that exists for no other reason than to keep Essex County citizens employed. It is a business, and it will respond like a business to market conditions.

            So while it’s speculation on my part to suggest that a spike in demand could cause NYCO to deplete the mine faster, or that a slump in demand could inspire NYCO to abandon it prematurely, IT IS JUST AS SPECULATIVE to assume that NYCO will keep plodding along at one consistent space for the next decade or two.

            • Pete Nelson Pete Nelson says:

              Harsh tone or not, you are exactly right, Bill. It’s Econ 101.

              NYCO operates with regard to market forces. This swap has everything to do with revenue, almost nothing to do with jobs. Mark Buckley practically admitted as much in his wording. Companies always say it’s about jobs because that’s the ultimate sell, especially when it is being made to a region that needs jobs. I find that particularly insidious. Even the Adk Council went with the jobs rhetoric which is disheartening to say the least.

              If Lot 8 were the only source of Wollastonite available to NYCO then, sure, this issue would be about jobs too. But that’s not the case.

              If someone wants to continue to pursue the idea that this is about “preserving jobs” I am happy to give a thousand examples from the real world about how it doesn’t work that way.

              • Paul says:

                Pete, this doesn’t have to be the only source of Wollastonite (if it is there)for it to be about jobs? The mineral could be on the moon but it might not be economical to get it. The same could apply here. I have no idea, but it seems to me that the most economical source would be the one next to the already working mine?

                Jobs in the Adirondacks have often been about boom or bust products. This isn’t any different. I don’t think anyone thinks this is sustainable forever. Nothing is. I am sure they figured they would have TB sanatoriums for a lot longer than they lasted?

          • Bill Ingersoll Bill Ingersoll says:

            I apologize for the harsh tone of the above comment, but I really am tired of the statement that Prop 5 = Job Retention. It does not.

            If anybody on this thread can make that determination with absolute certainty, then they shouldn’t be here. They should be setting up their stock portfolio, because they have gifts of prognostication the rest of us lack.

            • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

              Bill, we’ve been on this merry-go-round before. Your argument hasn’t improved with repetition. Basically, it boils down to the observation that we can’t predict the future. Even so we can postulate four different scenarios:

              1. Demand for NYCO’s wollastonite stays unchanged.
              2. Demand grows.
              3. Demand slows.
              4. Demand dries up entirely.

              Under the last scenario, everybody may lose their jobs. Since we can’t predict the future, we must admit this is possible. However, there seems to be no reason to think this will happen.

              Under the other three scenarios, NYCO will continue to employ workers. Perhaps fewer, perhaps more, perhaps the same. Who knows? The future is hard to predict.

              In any case, the more wollastonite NYCO has to mine, the longer it will stay in business. And the longer it stays in business, the longer it will be able to provide jobs.

              NYCO is not in business to employ local workers, but that is a consequence of its continuing to mine in Lewis.

              The argument that having an additional 400,000 tons of wollastonite to mine and market will not have a positive impact on employment is just nonsense. Frankly, it detracts from the more substantive arguments against Prop 5.

            • Bill Ingersoll Bill Ingersoll says:

              “In any case, the more wollastonite NYCO has to mine, the longer it will stay in business. And the longer it stays in business, the longer it will be able to provide jobs.”

              All right, so you like to draw conclusions that you can’t support. Simply stating that something is so isn’t a valid substitute for backing up such claims with supporting arguments.

              • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

                My premise is that it takes time mine 400,000 tons of wollastonite. During the time it takes to mine that wollastonite, NYCO will employ people.

              • Bill Ingersoll Bill Ingersoll says:

                Phil, you are of course correct, **assuming**:

                *No other sources of wlloastonite are discovered, including one that might glut the market

                *No other substitute products are introduced

                *No spike in demand will cause NYCO to burn through its supply faster

                The supply alone guarantees **nothing** in terms of labor retention.

                • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

                  Bill, as I said, if NYCO goes out of business, everyone is out of a job. Under all other scenarios, the more supply it has, the longer it can stay in business and employ people. If there is a spike in demand, for instance, it will still take time to mine the additional 400,000 tons. Your argument about supply only applies if there is no demand at all.

                • Bill Ingersoll Bill Ingersoll says:

                  Incorrect.

                  A spike in demand would cause NYCO to mine at a faster rate, meaning the supply would be exhausted sooner or later. So a mine projected to last 10 years might be gone in 5.

                  A drop in demand would likely cause NYCO to lay workers off. They wouldn’t stay at full staff just so people could look at a big hole in the ground, hoping for an order to come in.

                  Yes, this is all speculation, but that’s the point. No one knows. I’ve worked in manufacturing before, and staffing is directly tied to the volume of orders, **NOT** the amount of raw materials sitting in the store room. NYCO is a manufacturer, so the principle is the same.

                  There is a reason we call it “the law of supply and demand,” and not simply “the law of supply.”

                  The only argument I might accept about Prop 5 guaranteeing employment for a specified period of time would be if NYS contracted with NYCO to buy 400,000 tons of wollastonite over a 10-year period. Then you might have a point.

                  • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

                    Bill, you seem determined to ignore common sense. If demand spikes, NYCO would exhaust its supply sooner rather than later. We can agree on that. But if it doesn’t have that extra 400,000 tons, it would reach that point even sooner than otherwise. This is true however fast the company is mining. If demand drops, the company very well may lay off people. We can agree on that also. But if it is still mining, it will be employing some people. And those jobs will last until the company runs out of wollastonite or until demand dries up. As I said earlier, your economic argument works only if there is no demand at all.

                    • Paul says:

                      It is also not just a question of supply but a question of a supply that can be economically mined for sale at a reasonable profit. The company has been doing this since like 1950. They don’t have a track record of cutting and running, at least not at this site?

                  • Bill Ingersoll Bill Ingersoll says:

                    Phil,

                    It’s not that my lay economics analysis is the weakest point of MY argument, it’s that the job retention factor was the strongest argument for the pro-NYCO camp. So, sorry if I struck a nerve.

                    But common sense is this:

                    Neither supply nor demand alone determine a company’s staffing levels.

                    Only the combination of supply AND demand does that.

                    Prop 5 addressed NYCO’s supply of wollastonite exclusively. Prop 5 did not address demand.

                    Therefore Prop 5 was employment neutral.

                    We’re not talking about NYCO’s operating environment in 2013. For meaningful impacts to its employees, the mines need to be sustained over decades–so we’re talking 2023, 2033, maybe beyond. This **assumes** a steady market environment over that period, ensuring a steady demand so that NYCO can keep plodding along, offering its employees a steady job and a nice 401K. Volatility in this demand for NYCO product would probably lead to shorter-term employment, negating the benefit of Prop 5.

                    What I’m seeing here is a tendency to compartmentalize all these facets of NYCO & Prop 5, resisting the bigger picture–like the previous comments about the test drilling not leaving a scar, and that the required road building (and subsequent mining) are completely separate issues.

                    The simple fact is Prop 5 ensured nothing about NYCO’s workforce. I refuse to apologize if this is inconvenient. Apply all the colorful adjectives about my statements you want, but this what the evidence led me to conclude long ago.

                    At any rate, from a conservation perspective this has been a matter of principle to me. Only cognitive dissonance would compel me to go “Rah rah, Forever Wild!” in one breath and support this land exchange in the next. I wouldn’t vote to sell of a piece of the Forest Preserve to a mine any more than I’d approve giving away a piece of a National Park, or selling my dog to a restaurant. These are things you just don’t do.

                    • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

                      Bill, I admire you for standing on principle but take issue with the claim that the proposition is employment neutral. It just doesn’t wash. We’ll just have to disagree about it.

        • Mike K. says:

          My apologies for muddying the waters with a 35-year comparison instead of the correct 10-year comparison. My mistake. But I’m glad it got us away from that incorrect comparison of total revenue to one-year payroll.

      • Ed says:

        Actually, Mike, the 35 yrs is NYCO’s projected total current operations inc. Oak Hill.The above article specifficly states that they expect to complete mining on Lot 8 in less than a decade so the $140-$350 million is in 10 yrs or less not 35 years. This is a good example of why many people who supported Prop 5 did so because they did not understand what it actually entailed!

    • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

      Pete, the $140-360 million is for the life of the mine. The $6 million figure is annual. That’s why I pointed out that if the mine operates for 10 years, its annual revenue will be $14-36 million. Now we’re comparing apples to apples. Not all of the money left over after payroll will be profit, of course. There are overhead expenses. I assume some of that money will be spent locally–on supplies, contracting, etc.

  11. Tim says:

    And I hope everyone enjoys looking at the strip mines for the next several decades.

  12. Lorraine Duvall Lorraine Duvall says:

    Pete,
    The numbers sure bother me. A better deal would have been NYS gets a percentage of NYCO’s profits, rather than a million dollars of land. And as Bill points out, most of the land is just road frontage.

  13. Randy says:

    What concerns me more than the current land swap is the potential, or actual, precedent set with this amendment. Does it open up future “deals” not only with NYCO but perhaps real estate developers? I probably never will get to see those 200 acres in play, but the thought of future generations getting “played” by private interests and politicians in Albany just doesn’t help me sleep well at night.

    • Bill Ingersoll Bill Ingersoll says:

      I believe the next step has already been communicated by Betty Little, and it’s a concept called “land banking.”

      Basically, it would allow local government to identify parcels of the Forest Preserve that supposedly no one is using–but which have a potential commercial value–and propose a NYCO-like land trade. My understanding is that it would be very much like Prop 5, but rather than tied to a specific project, it would be a “blanket” amendment that could be applied anywhere. This is not a theory, but something that has actually been proposed. I believe there was an Almanack post on this topic by Dave Gibson a few years back.

      “Land bank” amendments have been passed in the past, that allowed a minor amount of Forest Preserve acreage to be flooded in reservoirs, or used for state highway realignment.

      • Paul says:

        Bill, she has also proposed that any new land added to the Forest Preserve could remain in timber production. Those type of things always pop up they never get anywhere. This would not either.

        • Scott van Laer Scott van Laer says:

          I was so off the mark on this one. I wonder how a prop allowing Wild Forest lands to be converted to State Forest would fair. This prop is a great lesson to industry. Dangle a carrot in front of the voters for “equal” land and you can buy some Forest Preserve. If companies did that in the 1940’s the Moose River Plains would be under water now. Thankfully the Adirondack Council was not around then to endorse the project.

      • Pete Nelson Pete Nelson says:

        Land banks will be proposed, no question. I don’t want to see them get a bad name since all land banks are not equal. Some strike me as a good idea, some do not. But the term “land bank” is already a negative for some before we even get to a discussion, a non-starter if you will. That’s a mistake.

        Pete

  14. Laura says:

    Now the truth comes out abt what they would do for reclamation! “He said the mine’s pit will be partially filled with waste rock, covered with topsoil, and planted with trees. The sides of the pit will be sloped and terraced with the aim of making it look, eventually, like a natural depression.” Natural, I don’t think so. Nice give away on the part of the state! $140 million to $360 million worth of product for $1 million. Maybe if they really felt the need to start mining the park, they should have put it out to bid. It would still be immoral but at least a higher financial gain for the people of the state of NY! Well, the ADK Council did refer to it as a “poorly worded” amendment in the congratulatory letter the day after the vote turned the ADK Park into temporarily wild until someone desires to exploit it!

  15. ZYXW says:

    I find it disturbing that a constitutional concept like Forever Wild can be wiped out based on vague promises and not much more. This doesn’t so much look like a “land swap” as permission to let NYCO drill to see if there is anything of profit there, and then maybe they’ll swap the land if they feel like it. No guarantees of anything much in this deal, and that’s just based on the wording. Wait until backroom politics works its magic on how its implemented.

    • Scott van Laer Scott van Laer says:

      I never thought it would pass. I didn’t think many people would be in favor of a mining operation expanding an additional 200 acres on private land in the ADK yet alone in a Wilderness area. This is the worst decision the residents of New York have made since they were given the power to protect the Blue Line directly in in 1894.

      • Paul says:

        Scott, I think you mean public land not “private land” .

        • Scott van Laer Scott van Laer says:

          No I mean private. I didn’t think rank and file New Yorkers would be in favor of mining expansion inside the Blue Line regardless of Land ownership. So ripping it from a Wilderness area to benefit a mining company seemed like a proposition doomed to fail. I was so very wrong.

          • Paul says:

            Sorry, I missed your point. I get it now. I think when quarries expand on private land in the Adirondacks it pretty much goes on without any protest. So I am not sure that people really have a problem with that? I am not even sure that most people know that there are several very large quarries (mining operations) going on throughout the park on private land.

  16. Mike K. says:

    Can anyone help clarify the legal details of the appraisal process that occurs with a public land swap?
    My understanding is that a public entity must receive equal or greater value in any land swap, and Prop 5 stipulates that in this case the state must receive a minimum land value of $1 million in exchange for Lot 8. But what happens if the test borings reveal, as Mr. Buckley predicts, $140-$360 million worth of wollastonite? Would that give the state the option — or maybe even the legal requirement — to demand a lot more than 1,500 acres in exchange to achieve equal or greater value?

    • Paul says:

      I think it says something like no less than not necessarily more than a million. if someone strikes it rich on the Racquette Lake property would the state be required to get more from those landowners as well. It is an interesting question you raise but I don’t think it is really something that would come up. Why do they use a drill? It seems so low tech. Isn’t there some type of imaging technology they can use? Maybe they have already done that and need to do this to check for purity?

    • Nature says:

      A quick read of the actual proposal provides the following:

      “In exchange, NYCO Minerals would give the State at least the same amount of land of at least the same value, with
      a minimum assessed value of $1 million” (from abstract)

      “NYCO Minerals, Inc shall provide the data and information derived from such drilling to the state for appraisal purposes. Subject to legislative approval of the tracts to be exchanged prior to the actual transfer of title, the state may subsequently convey said lot 8 to NYCO Minerals, Inc., and, in exchange therefor, NYCO Minerals, Inc. shall convey to the state for incorporation into the forest preserve not less than the same number of acres of land, on condition that the legislature shall determine that the lands to be received by the state are equal to or greater than the value of the land to be conveyed by the state and on condition that the assessed value of the land to be conveyed to the state shall total not less than one million dollars.”

      A fair market value appraisal would include the value of the raw mineral, in the ground. If this practice is followed, and it should be, there could be a lot more than $1 million worth of land added to the preserve. Not sure how all of this will shake out in the real world.

      I would post the link but it is very long. Google “proposition 5 land swap language” and look for the elections NY web page.

  17. Justin says:

    I’m surprised no one has yet declared they are going to stop writing for this site because the Adirondack Explorer editorialized in favor of the NYCO amendment, and as the reasoning goes, helped destroy Forever Wild.

    This internecine warfare is ridiculous. This is a sad chapter for the Adirondack environmental community.

  18. Scott van Laer Scott van Laer says:

    It is sad. You would have thought prop V would have been a unifying force for the regions green groups but instead it split them. The Forest Preserve was meant to be, and is consider by many, a priceless treasure. The Adirondack Council and the ADK regarded it as just another commodity to be bartered with or sold. Yes, there will be a net addition in acreage to the Forest Preserve with the swap, but even a pragmatic approach would have sought substantially more acreage than can be purchased with just one million dollars.

    Most disturbing will be the impacts of the continuous operations on wildlife well beyond the mine itself. The blasting that will occur is so intrusive it is likely to be detected as seismic activity at USGS stations. How could an environmental organization become so corrupt that they betray the ethical bedrock which has maintained the park for so long? They betrayed the most critical part of article 14 which states of the Forest Preserve; “They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.”

  19. Alan says:

    It’s not Forever Wild, it’s “Forever Wild-ish”

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