NYCO Minerals' wollastonite mine in Jay. Source: Adirondack Explorer.

NYCO Minerals’ wollastonite mine in Jay. Photo by Nancie Battaglia. Source: Brown, “Mine Seeks State Land.”

In 2013, the State of New York announced Proposition 5, a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would allow NYCO Minerals to expand a mine site in Essex County into Forest Preserve land in exchange for lands of equal or greater value to be added to the Forest Preserve 1 NYCO has operated two mining sites in the town of Lewis for over 60 years that extract wollastonite, a mineral product used in ceramics, paint, plastics, and as a substitute for asbestos. 2 NYCO’s operations sought to access mineral deposits beneath lot 8 of the wilderness area—an area of approximately 200 acres—in order to expand the mine. 3 Production has slowed in recent years, and the mineral resources that would be acquired under this expansion plan would keep the mine productive for another eight to ten years. Under this agreement, NYCO and the state would exchange lot 8 for several parcels of forested land currently held by NYCO amounting to 1,500 acres. These lands include trout streams and recreational access in the Jay Mountain Wilderness and adjacent Hurricane Mountain Wilderness, and five of the six parcels lie adjacent to the current wilderness area.  4

Approximately 100 residents of Essex County are employed by the NYCO mine, and the company serves as one of the largest employers in the Adirondack Park. 5 However, the “Forever Wild” designation of wilderness in the state is strict, and the proposed land swap was unprecedented in the history of the Forest Preserve. Environmental groups were divided on the issue, with some considering the net gain in Forest Preserve area worthwhile and others criticizing the negative precedent that the amendment would set. 6 In September 2014, the State Attorney General’s office issued a statement that the environmental opposition to NYCO’s test drilling was “thwarting the will of voters” 7 who had supported the amendment in a state-wide referendum, and exploratory drilling began on lot 8 of the Jay Mountain Wilderness in January 2015 over a year after the initial ballot approval. 8 Moving forward, the management of the New York Forest Preserve will forever be in the shadow of this new and unprecedented amendment. To effectively manage the Adirondack landscape in the future, it will be critical to continue to evaluate the values and meanings that New Yorkers attach to the Forest Preserve and its wilderness.

Source: Adirondack Explorer

Map by Nancy Bernstein. Source: Brown, “Mine Seeks State Land.”


  1. State of New York Board of Elections, NYS Board of Elections Proposal Election Returns
  2. Imerys, “NYCO.” 
  3. Karlin, “Between Rock, Wild Place.” 
  4. Brown, “Mine Seeks State Land.” 
  5. Ibid.
  6. Mann, “‘Serious Fault Line’ Splits Adk Green Groups.” 
  7. Brown, “State Argues NYCO Foes Thwarting Will Of Voters.” 
  8. Dickson, “NYCO Resumes Wollastonite Exploration Activities in New York State.”