The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Adirondack Park Agency (APA) have released various draft materials that describe how they plan to implement and manage the Constitutional Amendment approved last fall to sell 200 acres of Forest Preserve in the Jay Mountain Wilderness to NYCO Minerals, Inc. At the same time, NYCO has put in an application request to expand its mining operations by over 60%. NYCO is also seeking permission to expand operations at its second nearby Oakhill Mine. The APA and DEC are now taking public comments on the Forest Preserve management actions and NYCO’s mine expansion application.

On the Forest Preserve side of things, the DEC has determined that its best course of action is to amend the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area Unit Management Plan (UMP) for the 200 acres known as “Lewis Lot 8” that voters narrowly approved for sale to NYCO. The Constitutional Amendment authorized a 2-step process whereby NYCO first undertakes a “mineral exploration” phase on Lewis Lot 8. This involves road building and test drilling sites. If NYCO determines that the tests show a high level of wollastonite, the ore it mines, in Lewis Lot 8, then the Amendment authorized that the state can sell it to NYCO based on a price negotiated by DEC and NYCO.

The UMP amendment to the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area Unit Management Plan (UMP) authorizes various measures, such as drilling and road buildings, within the 200 acres of Lewis Lot 8. The specific details of where roads will be built, trees that will be cut, and drilling sites established, among other things, will be detailed in a Temporary Revocable Permit (TRP), which DEC utilizes to manage various short-term, small-scale, non-conforming, yet mostly benign, activities on the Forest Preserve. This TRP details the work plan for the entire mineral exploration phase. There will be significant environmental impacts as the old growth forest is cleared in many locations. The road building alone in the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area will see the removal of 1,254 trees.

NYCO seeks authority to begin this work as soon as possible.

The DEC published this information with a notice in the Environmental Notice Bulletin on April 3, 2014. Read the DEC press release here.

PROTECT is assessing this proposal from the APA and DEC. The Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP) does not allow road building or drilling in Wilderness areas. The state agencies argues that the Constitutional Amendment implicitly overrides the SLMP and other state laws to enable whatever activities the voters approved. PROTECT is evaluating the legality of this position. There are many questions about how a UMP can be amended to authorize activities that are prohibited by the SLMP, the central document that defines and guides UMPs. PROTECT is also evaluating whether a TRP can be used for new road building and drilling.

Public Comment Opportunities

The DEC has opened a public comment period on the draft TRP and UMP. Click here to file a comment online.

NYCO Seeks to Expand Activities in Both Mines

Emboldened by the narrow passage of its Constitutional Amendment last fall, NYCO Minerals, Inc. has submitted new applications to the APA and DEC to expand mining operations at both the Lewis Mine site, which abuts the Lewis Lot 8 Forest Preserve lands, and at its Oak Hill mine. Among other things, NYCO is seeking to massively expand the number of truck trips per day to 100 at the Lewis Mine to handle both the transport of wollastonite and the removal of overburden aggregate rock on the site. NYCO also wants to expand to 150 truck trips per day at its Oak Hill site.

NYCO seeks to expand its hours of operation at its Lewis Mine to 11 hours a day (7:00 AM – 6:00 PM, up from 7:30 AM – 5:30 PM). NYCO also seeks to expand its truck trips to service the Lewis Mine to 100 per day.

1 Loud Truck Pass every 3.3 minutes is not what the Rural Adirondack Life is all About

For local residents along the truck route, 100 trucks trips is 200 truck passes a day. NYCO trucks go up and down the hill from the mine on the same roads. This means that residents along the truck route will be inundated with truck noises at a rate of 18 trucks per hour or one roaring truck every 3.3 minutes for 11 hours each day. These trucks will roar by starting at 7:00 AM and not stop until 6:00 PM at night.

For many residents along the truck route, this is not what they envisioned for their lives in the Adirondack Park.

PROTECT opposes this massive expansion of mining activities and the unfair burden it places on local residents who live around the two mines and along the truck routes.

NYCO Set to Operate Two Mines Simultaneously for the Foreseeable Future

When NYCO was given its initial APA permit for the new Oak Hill Mine in the late 1990s, it was adamant that it would operate both mines only for a short time period. Since then, NYCO has managed to continue to expand the Lewis mine to mine wollastonite; the purchase of Forest Preserve lands will continue this process. At the same time, NYCO has leased out its Oak Hill mine to Graymount which mines and produces a variety of rock products.

Under expanded conditions, both sites will be going gangbusters. Mine related blasting, heavy earth moving equipment, rock crushing, and trucking will all significantly increase.

PROTECT opposes NYCO’s plans to massively expand the Oakhill Mine. It was never the deal for NYCO to operate two mines simultaneously.

Forest Preserve to get “Reclaimed Grassland”

Another interesting piece of information is that NYCO’s application to the DEC to expand its Lewis Mine states as part of its project description that “The mine will be reclaimed to grassland within two years of the cessation of mining.” Any notion that the lands removed from the Forest Preserve will be returned to the Forest Preserve in a condition other than looking like a soccer field should be laid to rest with NYCO’s admission. This business of returning mined lands to the Forest Preserve in a forested condition was one of the great frauds perpetuated by supporters of the NYCO amendment.

The Forest Preserve gives up old growth forest and gets “reclaimed grassland” in return.

PROTECT and many others opposed this amendment last fall.

Read more about the opposition to Proposition 5, which was passed 53-47% an authorized sale of Forest Preserve lands to NYCO. This was the narrowest approved Forest Preserve Constitutional Amendment in state history.