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Cargill Mine ShaftThe current Cargill mine surface facility includes three shafts that lead down to the mine. One is mostly inactive, while the other two are used to transport people and equipment to the mine, and to extract the salt from the mine to the surface, where it is stored in enormous piles, then trucked to customers or transported by train. A new mine shaft will have a very different look, being enclosed in farm-like buildings that blend with the rural landscape.

The Lansing Town Planning Board was given an introductory presentation on the Cargill Mine Shaft #4 project Monday, and discussed the Board's jurisdiction of the project.  Now that the mine has received the 'OK ' from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the project must be reviewed and approved by Lansing's Planning and Town Boards.

"I want to try to keep the focus on the need for the shaft," said Mine Manager Shawn Wilczynski.  "Regardless of all the rhetoric over the past couple of years, the main need for this shaft is for the safety and health of the employees of Cargill.  The 200 employees that work there, and particularly the folks that it takes 45 or 50 minutes one way to get to work, and the health and safety of those employees, as far as binging in air pressure and ventilation, and also the ability to get into and out of the mine in a much more timely fashion than they can right now."

The project will impact 12.3 acres of a 57 acre parcel about sevn miles north of the mine's current facility above Portland point, and Cargill officials say they anticipate it will take 18 months to finish the project.  A road will be built, and an area will be leveled to house the buildings.  An 11 inch hole will be drilled from the surface to the mine 2,500 feet below while these buildings are constructed.  A 16 foot bit will be placed at the bottom of the hole, and the shaft will be drilled from the bottom up, with the cuttings falling into the mine to be stored in an underground tunnel.  A 12 inch concrete liner will be installed, making the final shaft size 14 feet square.  The company has been creating a new one mile long shaft from the active mining area to the future location of the bottom of the new shaft.

The  company erected a pole with flags at different levels to gauge how much of the structures would be in sight from various locations around the property, including views from across Cayuga Lake.  While very little of the facility will be visible, the buildings that are designed to appear to be farm structures.
"It was very purposeful," Wilczynski said.  "We attended Town of Lansing Comprehensive Plan meetings.  We are very understanding of people's desire to maintain a rural, agricultural feel.  Everything we've done has been with the intention to be as minimally intrusive as possible."

Cargill Mine Shaft - William GraconSenior Project Manager William Graycon presented a rendering of the buildings that will enclose the new mine shaft and supporting activities: 1- a 10,000 square foot administration building with showers, a changing room, and offices. The tall barn-like building will enclose the actual elevator structure above the shaft 2- A 2,500 square foot building to house the hoist for the elevator 3- a 2,100 square foot shop

Local activist John Dennis asked to speak, although a formal comments period had not been scheduled.  Ellis said next month's public hearing would be a more appropriate forum for public input, but allowed Dennis, one of the organizers of Cayuga Lake Environmental Action Now (CLEAN), to make a brief statement.  He  reiterated CLEAN's assertion that a 2016 seismic study warns there is a disturbed salt zone near the Frontenac Point anomaly, and said there are risks that may exceed those conditions that caused the Retsof mine collapse disaster of 1994.

"We want to see a very thorough review of the risks," Dennis said.

Wilczynski has said Cargill was already familiar with this data, and that it had been considered by the company, the DEC, and independent geologists.  Nevertheless Town Attorney Guy Krogh explained that issue is under DEC jurisdiction, and not covered in the Planning Board's purview.  While opponents to the shaft project will certainly speak at the public hearing, the Planning Board can only consider site planning issues -- the buildings, fencing, the road, landscaping, and so on -- on the surface.

Planning Boards normally declare themselves 'lead agency' in order to rule on a State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) to determine whether projects have major or minor impacts on the environment.  In this case the DEC has declared itself 'lead agency' for that purpose, and has already issued the amended permit and SEQR review.  The DEC considered the company's environmental assessment review and public comment for about a year before granting the company a permit modification.  That streamlines the town Planning Board's authority and responsibility.

"Mining, land reclamation on closure, mine safety, and mine operational parameters, including the mining permits, and amendments to and renewals of mining permits, are not within the jurisdiction or authority of the Town," Krogh said. "The Town is preempted from regulating the mine operations, as well as worker and geophysical safety issues as relate to mine permitting or operations. Nor is the "SEQRA backdoor" open as NYSDEC was the proper lead agency and a coordinated review is binding on the Town."

One neighbor asked about long term plans to extend the use of the shaft for bringing salt to the surface.  Ellis and Planning Board member Larry Sharpsteen said the State has stated it will not allow the company to remove salt from the mine through the new shaft.  Cargill officials said they have no plans to do so, noting that a 14 foot square shaft is not large enough for salt extraction, and the company plans to continue using the existing shaft at their lakefront facility. 

"Our current footprint right now is about 70 acres," Wilczynski said.  "This being 58 acres, it just isn't physically large enough.  There is also no rail access."

Lansing planning Consultant Michael Long noted the materials on the project are available on the Town Web site.  the Planning Board will hold a public hearing on October 16th.  After the hearing the Planning Board will determine if they have enough information to recommend a special use permit to the Town Board.  Ellis said the Town Board would likely review the recommendation and hold a public hearing in December.

"The bulk of this work is the SEQR, and it's been done," Ellis said.  "We're looking at the surface, trying to make it look pretty and fit into the countryside.  It makes our job easier.  We're just an involved agency."

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