KIM SMITH DEDAM
WILLSBORO — The current NYCO Minerals corporate structure has been in place since 1953.
Some four generations of local workers have been employed at the mine and at the production facility in Willsboro dating many years prior.
NYCO was established decades before the Adirondack Park Agency Act and the State Land Master Plan were written into law in 1973, even though protected lands of the Adirondack Park were set aside as “Forever Wild” by constitutional decree in 1894.
The mining company’s earliest incarnation emerged in 1937 when Koert Burnham was digging for garnet on his property in Willsboro. The mineralogist found wollastonite.
Burnham went on to invent and define many uses for the unique mineral, with its needle-like crystalline structure. He supplied crushed ore for the earliest uses in welding and glass fabrication, including work on atomic weapons projects for World War II.
By 1949, he had sold what was then called the Willsboro Mining Company to local residents John Kiehl and Payson Hatch.
The mining operation has changed hands several times in the decades since.
In a 1985 interview with Don Cunnion for Adirondack Life Magazine, Burnham described how demand for the unique ore grew increasingly more diverse.
Dating to the 1940s, the effort to strike a balance between land-use development and preservation proved central to the mining company’s operations.
“Burnham also gains great satisfaction from the knowledge his efforts have created jobs in an area notorious for underemployment, thus following in the footsteps of his father (John Bird Burnham),” Cunnion wrote. “At the same time, like his father, who became a world-renowned leader in the early conservation movement, Burnham maintains a dedicated interest in what he calls applied conservation.”
Burnham told Adirondack Life that: “Jobs and conservation are not incompatible in places like the Adirondacks. Conservation means the wise use of our natural resources. It means planned management for the well-being of all. Man and nature can be partners working together. My father believed that, and so do I.”
SOLD IN 2012
Now part of an international mining conglomerate, NYCO was purchased on Sept. 14, 2012, from Rolling Rock Minerals Inc. by a Greek minerals group, S&B Industrial Minerals S.A., for $55.49 million.
NYCO sales in 2011 were $45.7 million, with earnings, before tax, of $5.4 million, according to records of the sale announced last year.
The mining company employs more than 100 in towns surrounding Lewis and Willsboro and is looking to extend the life of existing wollastonite mining operations.
Wollastonite is a relatively rare mineral found here, in China, Finland and India.
The structure of the ore allows it to be crushed into a fine powder that strengthens materials such as paint and plastics used in manufacturing, replacing asbestos and milled fiberglass.
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