Hon. Deborah Glick, Chair
Environmental Conservation Committee
Rm 625 LOB
Albany, NY 12248
Hon. Pete Harckham, Chair
Environmental Conservation Committee
Room 315, LOB
Albany, NY 12247
Dear Assemblywoman Glick, and Senator Harckham,
We write to request that you consider passage of a constitutional amendment to rectify an open-ended threat to one of the premiere wilderness areas in the Adirondack Park.
As you may recall, in 2013 New York voters narrowly passed (53%-47%) an amendment to Article XIV of the New York State Constitution (which mandates that state-owned Forest Preserve lands be kept “forever wild”) allowing NYCO Minerals, Inc. (“NYCO”) to sample for the mineral wollastonite on a 200-acre portion of state-owned Forest Preserve lands known as “Lot 8” in the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area in Essex County. In return for allowing mineral sampling and potential expansion of its mine into the constitutionally protected Wilderness, the amendment requires NYCO to donate yet-to-be-identified private lands to the State for inclusion in the Adirondack Forest Preserve, subject to approval by the Legislature. (A copy of the NYCO constitutional amendment is attached as Exhibit A).
In order to evaluate potential wollastonite deposits underlying the Jay Mountain Wilderness, the company was allowed to conduct exploratory drilling on Lot 8 and was required to submit the results to the Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”). However, the amendment failed to establish deadlines for either completion of mineral exploration activities in the Jay Mountain Wilderness or the land exchange.
The purported purpose of the amendment was to ensure the continued economic viability of NYCO’s wollastonite mining operation by allowing expansion of its mine onto the adjacent wilderness area. According to NYCO, the plan to expand its mine onto wilderness lands was crucial to preserving and expanding its local jobs in Essex County.
More than ten years later, the promised economic benefits of allowing the unprecedented exploitation of a state-owned wilderness by a private company have failed to materialize. Indeed, news outlets have reported that the number of NYCO jobs in Essex County has actually fallen. In addition, NYCO has since been purchased by the international mining conglomerate Imerys, which has reportedly shifted the majority of its wollastonite mining to Mexico, cut union employment at the company, and contracted out the remaining mining in Essex County to a firm in Vermont.
Moreover, the results of its mineral sampling in the Jay Mountain Wilderness to be submitted to DEC as required by the Legislature’s 2013 resolution approving the constitutional amendment remain publicly unknown. To our knowledge the necessary DEC appraisals have not taken place, and the company has failed to identify, much less purchase, the private lands it proposed to donate to the State in return for being allowed to expand its mining operations onto Lot 8.
NYCO’s failure in all these years to deliver on the employment and land exchange promises underpinning the 2013 amendment casts serious doubt on the company’s commitment—and ability—to fulfill those promises. Unfortunately, because the existing amendment provides no sunset or deadline for completion of either sampling activities or the land exchange, the threat of future despoliation of the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area by mineral exploration and mining will continue in perpetuity.
Consequently, we ask you to please consider a further constitutional amendment to establish a date certain by which all further mineral sampling and the land exchange must be completed. We believe this could be accomplished through a simple additional clause (we have purposely left the sunset date blank, as we believe the Legislature should make that determination):
THE STATE MAY NOT AUTHORIZE, AND NYCO MINERALS, INC., OR ANY SUCCESSOR IN INTEREST,MAY NOT ENGAGE IN, MINERAL SAMPLING OPERATIONS IN LOT 8, STOWERS SURVEY, TOWN OF LEWIS, ESSEX COUNTY AFTER [Insert Date], AND THE STATE MAY NOT CONVEY SAID LOT 8 TO NYCO MINERALS, INC. OR ANY SUCCESSOR IN INTEREST AFTER THAT DATE.
Now that the promised economic and environmental benefits have failed to materialize—and many jobs have been lost—the time has come for NYCO to fulfill its original promises or, by date certain, to allow the Jay Wilderness Area to be freed from the perpetual threat of private exploitation.
Thank you very much for considering our proposal. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue with you and your staff.
David Gibson, Managing Partner
Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve
Cc: Ashley Dougherty, Executive Chamber
Fiona Watt, Director, NYS DEC Division of Lands and Forests
Peter Frank, Assistant Director, DEC Lands and Forests
Hon. Dan Stec, NYS Senate
Hon. Billy Jones, NYS Assembly
Adirondack Mountain Club
Adirondack Wilderness Advocates
Environmental Advocates of NY
Protect the Adirondacks
Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter
NOTWITHSTANDING THE FOREGOING PROVISIONS, THE STATE MAY AUTHORIZE NYCO MINERALS, INC. TO ENGAGE IN MINERAL SAMPLING OPERATIONS, SOLELY AT IT 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 THETRACTS 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. 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. NEVER THELESS SHALL CONVEY TO THE STATE FOR INCORPORATION INTO THE FOREST PRESERVE NOT LESS THAN THE SAME NUMBER OF ACRES OFLAND THAT IS DISTURBED BYANY 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.
S 2. RESOLVED (if the Assembly concur), That the foregoing amendment
be submitted to the people for approval at the general election to be
held in the year 2013 in accordance with the provisions of the election