The state Assembly approved first passage of a constitutional amendment on Wednesday that would allow for a land swap in Essex County between NYCO Minerals, Inc. and the state.
The approval comes one day after it received the go-ahead from the state Senate.
The concurrent resolution, sponsored by Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, R-Willsboro, and Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, will need to be approved again next year or the year after by a separately elected state legislature before going before voters on a statewide ballot, potentially in November 2013.
The land swap would give NYCO a 200-acre parcel in the town of Lewis that is now Forest Preserve. NYCO wants the property so it can mine the rare mineral wollastonite, which is used primarily in ceramics, construction, friction products, metal production, paints and coatings, plastics, adhesives and sealants.
In exchange for giving NYCO the acreage, the state would receive lands for inclusion in the Forest Preserve.
The amount of land NYCO would give the state would be based the value of the 200-acre parcel. That value would be determined by the state Department of Environmental Conservation after NYCO does exploratory drilling to see how much wallastonite was under the ground.
The state would receive land of equal or greater value but no less than $1 million, the memo supporting the bill states.
In addition, once NYCO is finished mining the land, it will be required to reclaim the land and return it to the state for inclusion in the Forest Preserve.
The Adirondack Mountain Club, which has endorsed the land swap, estimates that the state could receive a significant amount of land in the deal.
"We expect that this deal would enable the state to purchase - from a landowner the state is already talking to -1,500 to 2,000 acres to add to the Jay Range, including mountains called the little Jay Range that would really excellent views," ADK Executive Director Neil Woodworth said. "Our board felt this not only helped the Essex County economy and the town of Lewis, but also that there was a big benefit for the Forest Preserve."
NYCO currently mines wollastonite on a 260-acre tract in the town of Lewis, with processing facilities in Willsboro, Essex County. The 200-acre tract desired by NYCO is an extension of the wollastonite vein that it currently mines on 260-acre tact.
NYCO's Lewis mine produces 60,000 tons of wollastonite annually or a little more than 8 percent of the annual worldwide production. However, NYCO's mine is approaching the end of its pit life because the wollastonite vein extends onto adjacent Forest Preserve land.
The company has 95 full time employees and an annual payroll of $4,600,000, according to the memo supporting the bill. Plus, 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 its current mine is three years. It is estimated that mining the additional land could extend the mine's life by between 13 to 15 years.
The economic benefit to the region is a primary reason Little and Sayward have sponsored the bill for the constitutional amendment.
"NYCO is one of our biggest employers in Essex County and their continued success is vitally important to those who work there, their families and many other businesses in the area," Little said in a press release.