Constitutional amendment to improve Adirondack recreational access and support North Country jobs wins second passage
A proposed state constitutional amendment that would allow for a land exchange between New York State and NYCO Minerals, Inc. located in Essex County won second passage today in the Senate according to its sponsor, Senator Betty Little.
The exchange would enable NYCO to continue its wollastonite mining operations in the Town of Lewis while adding valuable land to the state Forest Preserve. The Adirondack Council today added their support for the amendment.
“NYCO’s continued success is vitally important to our North Country economy and to those who depend on it for their livelihoods,” said Little. “In exchange for the conveyance of land, the state will receive land of far greater financial and recreational value. The agreement is sensitive to economic and environmental considerations.
“We’re at this point thanks in large part to the cooperative work of the Department of Environmental Conservation, NYCO and environmental organizations including the Adirondack Council and Adirondack Mountain Club. I applaud them all for their commitment and diligence in finding a solution that will benefit the state and this employer for many years to come.”
Second passage is still needed in the Assembly before being presented to voters on the November general election ballot. Implementation legislation would follow next year providing the specifics of how the amendment would be carried out.
NYCO is the world's foremost producer and supplier of wollastonite, which is a rare, white mineral having commercial application as a reinforcement or additive in ceramics, paints, plastics, friction products and various building products.
The amendment would permit NYCO to do exploratory drilling to determine the quantity and quality of the wollastonite vein on Lot 8, Stowers Survey, Town of Lewis, Essex county ("Lot 8"), which is currently in the Forest Preserve. Lot 8 totals approximately 200 acres.
NYCO would share the data and information derived from the exploratory drilling with the Department of Environmental Conservation ("Department"). The Department would then appraise the value of Lot 8.
The State would then convey Lot 8 to NYCO and, in exchange, NYCO would then convey to the Department for inclusion in the Forest Preserve at least the same number of acres as is contained in Lot 8, provided that the Legislature would be required to determine that the lands to be received by the state would be equal to or greater than the value of Lot 8, and provided that in no event would the value of the land to be conveyed to the State be less than $1 million.
The Department's appraisal of Lot 8 and the $1 million floor value will ensure that the exchange parcel coming into the Forest Preserve will total significantly more than 200 acres.
If exploratory drilling occurs but the land exchange does not ultimately occur, NYCO would be required to convey to the State for incorporation into the Forest Preserve acreage that would be at least the same number of acres that was disturbed by the exploration activity, provided that the Legislature would be required to determine that the lands to be received by the state would be equal to or greater than the value of disturbed acreage, and such conveyance would be subject to legislative approval.
At the end of NYCO's mining operation on Lot 8, NYCO would be required to convey Lot 8 back to the State for inclusion in the Forest Preserve.
NYCO has 95 full-time employees and an annual payroll of $4,600,000. It has 63 vendors within a 100 mile radius and spends $2,300,000 locally per year. It pays $260,000 in local taxes. The expected life of the current mine is three years. It is estimated that mining the ore in Lot 8 could extend the mine life by between thirteen to fifteen years.