Thursday, December 2, 2021

Barton seeks OKs for next 75 years of mining garnet

By Zander Frost, Chronicle Staff Writer

Barton International, the garnet mining company headquartered in downtown Glens Falls, invited The Chronicle in to discuss plans to, in their words, “modify” its mining operations within land it owns in the Town of Johnsburg.

2013 photo, Barton’s Kevin Fish & Chuck Barton, with garnet used for the Elm Tree plaque in Glens Falls.

Barton says current permit parameters only allow eight more years of operation at its Ruby Mountain Mine, which began operation in 1983. They said it’s one of four “large hard rock garnet mines” in the world.

Barton says it owns about 850 acres, but is only permitted to mine a relatively small portion, which they hope to increase by 8%.

“We have plenty of property to put it, but we don’t have plenty of permitted footprint,” said Robert Albano, Barton Vice President of Human Resources.

Barton, founded in 1878, is a fifth generation family owned company.

Chief Operating Officer Chuck Barton said, “We provide garnet that goes into waterjet cutting, which is a cutting edge technology that all high end manufacturing — Boeing, Rolls Royce, medical device manufacturers — they all use waterjet cutting.”

He said their garnet is also used in blasting. “Abrasive blasting — our primary market is with the Navy. We’re actually working on our third aircraft carrier project where we supply blasting companies that then do very technical removal of a coating and replacement with a new coating,” Mr. Barton said.

Barton must get approval on a comprehensive application. They say they’re working closely with the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Adirondack Park Agency and meeting with the public.

Mr. Barton said that for the application “you have to show full mine build-out, so we’re going out 75 years” to show plans for the property.

Mario Cangemi, Barton’s Director of Health, Safety and Environment, said, “The application that we submitted is about 10,000 pages. So, 20 of it is the actual form application; the rest of it’s the technical studies.”

He said, “Obviously we want to balance our business aspect, but minimize the community impact and demonstrate that we’ve thought these things out very, very thoroughly.”

They said they’ve heard public concerns, which changed their original plans to submit the application in June.

One concern is visual. The act of mining generates a “residual pile” of minerals. Barton says they will spread it laterally, showing computer generated projections of the view from Thirteenth Lake Road with a minimal change in appearance.

They also said they will “reclaim” land, actively planting vegetation as they mine.

They plan stormwater controls, avoiding stream impacts and using designs that reduce dust.

Mr. Albano said the project has taken them two to three years, because they’ve “tried to go through every possible impact and model…balance it such that it’s not all about just maximizing the mine life, but minimizing the impact.”

He credited H2H Geoscience Engineering for the application’s thoroughness.

“This is really important to Barton,” Mr. Cangemi said. “We’re talking about a 143 year old company. We’re trying to secure many, many generations, after us when we retire, to be one of the best employers up in the North Country.”

Barton said it has around 75 employees in the Johnsburg and Indian Lake area, and 30 more in its Glens Falls headquarters. It said it pays approximately $8-million in wages and benefits annually.

They told The Chronicle they don’t like the word “expansion.”

“Because there’s so many controversial permits in the [Adirondack] Park…We’ve tried to help people understand that it’s really more appropriate or fitting to call it a modification than it is an expansion,” Mr. Albano said.

“Expansion has a negative connotation naturally. And so what we’re really trying to do more than anything with this permit is go lateral.”

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