Will a NYS Referendum Allow Asbestos-Substitute Mine To Take Land From the Adirondack Park?

Election Day in New York State will be more than about voting for political seats: this year, New Yorkers will be asked to vote on a state-wide referendum on whether to allow a private mining company access to land in the Adirondack Forest Preserve near Willsboro.

In exchange for expanding the boundaries by two hundred acres, NYCO Mineral Inc., miners of wollastonite, an asbestos-substitute, will return nearly fifteen hundred acres of land to the Forest Preserve.

Voters across New York State will make the final decision on whether the exchange will take place on November 5. Under New York State law, any changes to the Forest Preserve must undergo a rigorous approval process including passing separately through the Senate and Assembly, and passing through a state-wide referendum.

Reactions from environmental groups on the proposed land exchange is mixed: some are for the swap, pointing out that NYCO Mineral Inc. will be returning more land to be protected than that it is asking for to mine; while other groups are cite the larger impact the mining will have on the region.

Part of the fifteen hundred acres are picturesque areas around the Derby Brook and Jay Mountain Wilderness area. What remains clear, however, is that if the exchange passes, one hundred jobs will also be protected.

At the crux of the debate is wollastonite, a white mineral used in a variety of manufacturing and industrial settings. Often used as an alternative to asbestos especially in the manufacturing of friction products, the calcium-based mineral is most commonly mined in Upstate New York, Finland, China and Mexico.

Asbestos, also a naturally-occurring mineral, is highly toxic, and exposure to asbestos dust can cause a lethal form of cancer known as mesothelioma. Mining for or manufacturing with asbestos has been banned, and for some products such as vehicle brakes that relied on asbestos' natural properties like heat resistance have used wollastonite instead.

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