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