A local industry needs statewide support Tuesday for a land swap that will help affirm its competitiveness for years to come. We urge voters to say "yes" to Proposition 5.
NYCO is a long-time employer based in Willsboro and one of the world's leading suppliers of the mineral wollastonite. But company officials estimate that its mine in the Town of Lewis has only about two years' worth of wollastonite remaining.
Proposition 5 would allow NYCO to take over 200 acres of nearby state land to expand its mining operation. People who care about the environment needn't fear for the impact because, in exchange, NYCO will give the state 1,500 acres to be added to the Forest Preserve. Beyond that, when NYCO is done mining the expanded site, it will restore the land and turn it back to the state.
No one loses with this land swap. NYCO estimates the new site will extend the life of its Adirondack operation — and the much-needed 100-plus jobs it provides — by eight to 10 years.
The proposition has support from business and government leaders and most environmental groups. The Adirondack Council, which supports the exchange, notes the 200 acres being given up “show no significant biological, environmental, wildlife or recreational resources” while the 1,500 acres gained "contain important wildlife habitat, more than three miles of stream, sensitive fisheries and recreational resources."
A few critics have suggested the expansion is unnecessary because NYCO has the option of moving its operations to the Oak Hill mine, also in Lewis. But company officials say that site "poses serious competitive challenges."
Why? NYCO explains it this way: "The mineral on that (Oak Hill) property is buried under much greater amounts of overburden (sand and gravel) and other types of rock and would require far greater expense to retrieve. Because of these increased costs, moving to Oak Hill in the near future would make it very difficult to compete for business with NYCO's primary competitors in China and India, would put NYCO at great risk of losing customers and would put employees’ jobs at risk as a result."
In the meantime, a lower-cost supply of wollastonite is sitting about 50 feet away from the active mine.
Timing is an issue as well. "The wollastonite on Lot 8 (the state land being swapped) is only of value to NYCO while they are operating on the adjacent land," a representative says. "Once NYCO ceases operations at the active mine, they are required to reclaim the mine, which means re-contouring and replanting the land and removing all of their equipment and infrastructure, including access roads and electrical service. Once this happens, the economic feasibility of mining on Lot 8 will be gone. If Proposition 5 is rejected, the wollastonite on Lot 8 will go unused, NYCO’s competitiveness will be compromised, and the state will miss out on the opportunity to acquire 1,500 acres of new Forest Preserve land at no cost to taxpayers."
All the potential pitfalls have been eliminated, making Proposition 5 a compelling trade. Vote "yes" on Tuesday.