When the Adirondack Park Agency
(APA) in the state of New York, US, approved NYCO
Minerals plan to explore wollastonite resources near the
town of Lewis, APAs State Land Committee chairman,
Richard Booth, said, Obviously, this is
controversial, further stating, This may well get
litigated and thats not a surprise, adding that
opponents to NYCOs plan might continue to fight by taking
the APA to court.
In a market that has witnessed
ever-increasing global demand over the last three years, it is
no surprise that NYCO and other companies have embarked on the
search for new sources of wollastonite.
However, concerns about
environmental and legal issues have dogged operations and led
to delays and increasing costs.
Wollastonite is a white
metasilicate of calcium (CaSiO3), with a theoretical
content of 48.3% lime (CaO) and 51.7% Silica
Owing to properties such as high
dimension and temperature stability, high strength and
resistance to heat distortion and cracking, the mineral is used
in a wide range of applications in ceramics, construction,
paints and coatings, plastics additives and in the steel
Additionally, new markets are
emerging for this mineral, including environmental management,
forest restoration and carbon sequestration, health care,
agriculture and waste management.
According to the US Geological
Survey (USGS) and the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM),
wollastonite production is limited to five main countries:
China (300,000 tpa), India (150,000 tpa), the US (70,000 tpa),
Mexico (50,000 tpa) and Finland (11,500 tpa).
Data released in 2011 from the IBM
indicates that there has been an increase of 6% in global
production of wollastonite, up to 620,000 tonnes.
NYCO Minerals expands in US
NYCO, the leading North American
wollastonite supplier, has been mining the mineral near the
town of Lewis, New York, since 1953, with a present output
capacity of 150,000 tpa.
The company, which was acquired by
Greece-based group S&B Industrial Minerals in 2012, also
owns a wollastonite mine in Sonora, Mexico, with a production
capacity of 265,000 tpa.
NYCO said its active mine in Lewis
has less than three years supply remaining.
In 1998, the company acquired
another mining licence for its Oak Hill wollastonite mine,
which is located 1.5miles (2.4km) away from its Lewis mine, in
Both the Oakhill and Lewis mines
are within the Adirondack Park, a state-level protected area in
northeast of the New York state.
According to John Brodt, a NYCO
spokesperson, the exploitation of wollastonite resources at its
Oak Hill mine in the near term is proving to be difficult. This
is because the mineral is buried deep in the ground.
This anomaly (usually wollastonite
is relatively simple to extract) means extraction of the
mineral could pose serious competitive cost challenges to
Brodt told IM that
NYCO has responsibly mined wollastonite on a privately-owned
portion of the Adirondack Park for more than 60 years and the
mine has become an important component of the local
The company has recently proposed a
land swap to the State of New York, in order to acquire a
200-acre (0.81km2) area, known as Lot 8,
neighbouring its existing wollastonite mine, in exchange for a
privately owned 1,507-acre (6.1km2) area of
forestland within the Jay Mountain Wilderness area.
The company believes Lot 8 contains
a potential deposit of 1.2-1.5m tonnes of wollastonite
reserves, which would enable it to extend its wollastonite
operations for up to a further 10 years.
NYCO anticipated that, upon
approval of the land swap by the State of New York, the company
would mine only a portion of Lot 8, corresponding to 30-50
It added that it would carry out
exploration in a quarter of Lot 8 and, if drill results
indicate the mineralogy is of an acceptable grade and quantity,
the company will proceed with the land swap.
Upon completion of the mining
activities, NYCO would reclaim Lot 8, replant it and donate it
back to the State of New York.
The APA and the Department of
Environmental Conservation (DEC) governmental agencies, which
rule mining legislation in the region, supported NYCOs
land swap proposal.
However, the land swap required the
amendment of Article XIV of the State Constitution, known as
The amendment was passed both by
the State Senate and Assembly in June 2013, with the support
from the New York state Governor, Andrew Cuomo, and DECs
commissioner Joe Martens.
In November last year, New York
voters also approved the land swap and amendments to
Proposition 5, with a 53-47% result in favour returned by the
New York state.
Brodt told IM that
the swap earned the support of a broad array of environmental
groups, including the Adirondack Mountain Club and Adirondack
Council, labour unions, local governments and business
The people of the state would
give up 200 acres of Forest Preserve next to an existing
wollastonite mine and receive at least 1,500 acres of land
containing a better wildlife habitat as well as greater
recreational opportunities, William Janeway, the
Adirondack Council executive director, said in a statement
following the decision to go ahead with the land-swap, adding,
Over time, those 200 acres will come back into the Forest
Well get a lot more
ecologically significant land than well be giving
up, agreed Neil Woodworth, Adirondack Mountain
Despite this support, the land swap
met with opposition among other environmental activists in
Adirondack Park. Groups Protect the Adirondacks, Adirondack
Wild, the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter and the Atlantic Stage
Legal Foundation have all gone on the record to state their
dismay with the proposed land swap.
The activists complained that
NYCOs expansion would have a negative impact on the rural
and residential community, as it will involve the cutting of
corridors for machinery, road building, drilling and constant
movement of motor vehicles in the wilderness.
Peter Bauer, executive director of
Protect the Adirondacks, claim that NYCOs plan is to
extend operations from 90 to 132 acres (0.36 to
The road building alone in
the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area will see the removal of 1,254
trees, said Bauer, who also protested against APA and
DECs decision to consider the area as a non-old growth
This is a forest system that
has not been impacted, or impaired by human activities since
1980; we do not feel the environmental baseline information the
state has gathered and put forth is adequate, Bauer
In addition, the activists raised
legal issues, which were formally expressed in a letter sent by
assisting law firm Earthjustice, which said that the DEC and
APA subverted existing laws.
We are very concerned that
the DEC might release a temporary permit for mining exploration
by-passing the laws prohibiting mining operations in the
area, Deborah Goldberg, managing attorney at
Earthjustice, told IM in February.
The area in Lot 8 has a
wilderness designation entitled to the highest level of
protection, which is inconsistent with mining operations in the
area, she added.
The opponents claimed that the
proposed amendment only authorised mineral exploration on Lot
8, but not further mining activity, which is prevented by the
State Land Master Plans (SLMP) guidelines.
However, the DEC and APA said that
the amendment is based on the implicit repeal of the 2013
constitutional amendment of the SLMP guidelines.
Executive director of the
Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, Fred Monroe,
said that the amendment can overcome any other regulations,
including the SLMP.
After receiving public comments,
the APA and DEC approved the land swap in mid-June this
The statute has been
overridden but not completely. It only needs to be overridden
to the extent that its necessary to carry out the intent
of the constitutional amendment, which is to permit the
exploratory activity, APAs counsel, James Townsend
said to the local news service Adirondack Daily
APA State Land Committee chairman,
Richard Booth, who admitted the controversial nature of the
approval, said that the strategy carried by the DECs
lawyers made sense.
I think, given the vote of
the public, this is what the public anticipated would
happen, he said.
A spokesperson from APA told
IM that sampling operations would begin after
a public presentation of the NYCOs new exploration plan
in mid-summer this year.
However, Additional permits
will be needed to guarantee that mining activities will have no
adverse environmental impact on the area, the APAs
Brodt told IM that
NYCO is committed to abiding by all applicable laws and
regulations when moving forward with the land swap process.
Meanwhile, the environmentalist
groups are considering whether to continue the battle through
Commenting on the approval, David
Gibson, partner of Adirondack Wild, told Adirondack Daily
Enterprise, Their legal foundation for making these
determinations has been swept away. Well obviously review
In eastern Ontario, Canadian
Wollastonite (CW) experienced similar hostility against its
wollastonite project in St Lawrence. The company entered
production after an exploration and application process lasting
over two decades.
After an initial suspension of the
project, following the acquisition of mining leases in 1990, as
the deposit was deemed non-core, CW spent 11 years, from 2001
to 2012, bringing the project from exploration to
During this time, the company
completed a number of tasks, including a five-year
comprehensive environmental study, impact assessments and plan
amendments for the city of Kingston and the township of Leeds
and the Thousands Islands.
The project received the final
approval for its project from the Ministry of Northern
Development in December 2012 and entered the production stage
in 2013, after a two-year delay due to the opposition of its
mining operations from local residents.
The project was approved and
ready to advance in 2009, but was held up due to legal appeals
of the approvals from a small number of adjacent property
owners. These appeals were eventually dismissed in the courts
but the delay was a costly set-back, Bob Vasily,
CWs president, told IM.
In January 2013, Bob Vasily said
that the trial plant capacity was of 15,000 tpa wollastonite
and 12,000 tpa diopside, a calcium magnesium silicate.
In 2013 we produced about
6,500 tonnes of wollastonite as well as other ancillary ore
products, Vasily said.
CW said that it is not planning
additional explorations, as current resources are about 9m
tonnes wollastonite and 30m tonnes of other economic ores,
which are able to support mining activities for several
generations to come.
The site is very well
located, close to the US border and along major transportation
arteries, Vasily told IM.
CW is confident it will generate
profits from two complementary businesses; high aspect ratio
(HAR) wollastonite and low-iron diopside as well as performance
and speciality aggregates, which are mostly calcium magnesium
silicate and orthogneiss.
Orthogneiss is a high strength
friction aggregate which finds applications in local markets in
skid resistant road surfaces and high performance concrete,
without requiring high degrees of beneficiation.
In the short term, emphasis
will be placed on opening the pits and generating cash flow
through the mining and selling of performance and speciality
aggregates, Vasily told IM.
While the deposit is a HAR
source, development of a HAR beneficiation plant will require
additional skills and capital that we hope to find by way of a
cooperation with a more seasoned and experienced firm, he
CW is targeting local markets for
the supply of its wollastonite, including cement manufacturing,
steel production and the automotive industry, which is the
sector driving wollastonite demand in the North American
market, according to Vasily.
The company also sees market
opportunities for its HAR wollastonite and diopside products in
horticulture, agriculture and environmental remediation.
Our realistic short term
focus is on local markets where we have a competitive advantage
over the other two North American producers [NYCO Minerals and
RT Vanderbilt], Vasily told IM.
We are not really competing
with either of these two firms for the time being. We are
advantaged in that our resource is large and we can find and
supply markets that both of these firms would not
consider, he added.
While remaining a niche market, CW
sees potential growth for its wollastonite as a single mineral
source of Ca, Mg and Si in organic food production and
horticulture in North America.
Growth in the conventional
markets, where wollastonite is valued for its morphological
properties, will require innovation and R&D, Vasily
Despite facing environmental and
legal opposition, CW was finally successful in reaching the
In doing so, CW has become
the first new industrial minerals mine to be approved in
Southern Ontario in 36 years, Vasily told
*Conversion made June
Incubex Minerals exploration in South Africa
South African junior exploration company, Incubex Minerals Ltd,
started to develop a wollastonite project near the town of
Garies, western South Africa, in January this year.
John Bristow, Incubexs CEO,
told IM that the project is a very initial
stage, consisting of trial mining and fine tuning of a small
plant that is already on site.
We are still evaluating the
wollastonite resource at Garies but we know it is significant,
probably amounting to several millions of tonnes or more,
Bristow told IM.
The company has carried out field
mapping at the mine in order to identify high grade portions of
We have also made some
changes to our small processing plant and will be moving and
installing a primary crusher at the mine site to improve the
raw product quality that we produce, Bristow said.
We have also done test work
on the processing plant to optimise the quality of wollastonite
material that we will eventually produce, he added.
Bristow explained that Incubex is
reassessing and re-evaluating information from existing
drilling operations and mapping data in order to refine the
geological model and have a better understanding of the
resources at Garies. The company is not planning to do a
compliant SAMREC study at the moment.
In terms of logistics and
production facilities, Bristow said there is a primary
treatment and hand picking plant at the mine as well as a small
final processing plant in Garies, where Incubex intends to
manufacture its final product.
The company aims to produce 30-40
tpm wollastonite for the first few months of operation and will
then step up its capacity to about 100 tpm.
We will expand this as we
grow the local market, Bristow told IM,
that Incubex already shipped very
small tonnages and hopes to be in routine production by August
of this year.
The company incurred major
costs for the purchase of a small excavator, an articulated
dump truck for the mine and a forklift for the processing
plant, Bristow said.
According to Bristow, Incubex is
planning to initially spend South African Rand (R) 2m
($186,000*) to bring production capacity to 100 tpm at
The company is still
developing local markets and aims to make inroads into
important replacement markets, such as asbestos, Bristow
In the near future we will be
supplying the local paint industry and selling wollastonite to
a ceramics producer of baths, basins and toilets and to the
concrete slab industry, Bristow told
We are also exploring other markets here in South
Africa and in neighbouring countries, he added.