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North Country News

Environmentalists Drop Appeal To Land Deal

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Protect the Adirondacks
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In the latest twist in a long-running legal battle, environmental groups challenging a mining company’s test drilling on Adirondack lands have decided not to appeal a court ruling that went against them.

In November 2013, voters in New York approved a constitutional amendment that allows the NYCO Mining company to obtain 200 acres of Adirondack Forest Preserve land next to its mine in exchange for 1,500 acres of pristine forest land. NYCO planned to conduct test drilling to determine if wollastonite is on the 200-acre parcel. Four groups challenged their permit.
 
In mid-December State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Buchanan dismissed the lawsuit and a restraining order preventing the test drilling. The groups have decided not to appeal.
Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve Partner Dan Plumley says while the plaintiffs disagree with the decision, they feel their time and resources should be redirected.  “There are still legislative actions if the swap is to go forward. Questions of the valuation of any mineral resource and how the state gains equity from that. So looking forward, we needed to make the decision we made.  If we did file the appeal, the timing would probably have made our action moot because the test drilling will probably be over by then. That was one of the primary factors that confronted us.”
 
NYCO Minerals officials released a statement noting that exploratory drilling began immediately following the dismissal of the suit. “We are continuing the drilling as per the provisions of our temporary revocable permit and as stipulated in the constitutional amendment that was approved by the state's voters. We are working closely with DEC and following all regulatory requirements.”
 
The mine is in the town of Lewis. Supervisor David Blades says the resolution of the lawsuit is extremely important to the region’s economy. “This is one of our largest businesses that we have in the town of Lewis. It probably employs more people than any other business in the area. And I can understand why the environmentalists wanted to delay or to stop it. People that I had talked to in the area, 90 percent were in favor of the drilling. This is something that’s needed. Not only do they provide a tax base for the town of Lewis, but again, they provide employment.”
 
Plumley says the challenging groups will ask to join the DEC in the field to monitor the test drilling. They will also scrutinize any legislative actions.  “If NYCO determines there is sufficient wollastonite mineral on Lot 8 and they want to go ahead with the land swap there will have to be implementing legislation. So all of our groups would be involved in monitoring and commenting on facets of the legislation.”
 
A DEC Spokesman was unaware of a request by the groups to be at the drilling site, but did not discount the possibility that they had approached the agency.
 
If a land swap occurs, the mining company is required to reclaim the 200 acres after the wollastonite has been extracted and then return the land to the forest preserve.
 
 

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