Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Learning Resources (Educational Info)

On This Page

Mined Land Learning Resources

As you go about your daily life, have you ever thought about where the things that you use come from? The components in your electronic devices, the electricity that powers your lights and computers, the roads that you drive on, the buildings that you live and work in, the medicine you take, the solar panels that make it possible to capture the sun's energy as a renewable fuel…they must come from somewhere, right? There is a saying that goes "if it can't be grown then it has to be mined" and that is as true today as it was yesterday, and it will continue to be in the future. The Minerals Education Coalition estimates that every man, woman, and child uses approximately 3.19 million pounds of minerals, metals, and fuels in their lifetime.

Mining is clearly important to our everyday lives and it is equally important to return these mined lands to productive use when they have reached the end of their reserves. The Division of Mineral Resources is tasked with regulating the mines in New York State and ensuring that reclamation meets the regulatory standards.

The Division maintains a data management system and databases, as well as regulatory mine files about the mines and minerals found during exploration, including:

  • Geology and location of mines in New York
  • Mine inspections performed by DEC
  • Financial security held by the state for reclamation of mines
  • Reclamation of land affected by surface mining

This information can be used to form an overall picture of the mineral resources in New York, their extraction and use, and mitigation techniques that help protect the environment. There are close to 2,000 permitted mining operations in New York State producing almost two dozen mineral commodities and affecting almost 50,000 acres of land that will need to be reclaimed. Descriptions and interesting facts about several of these commodities are discussed in the Mineral Fact Sheets (PDF) (2.8 MB). The Division works to ensure that the lands affected by mining are reclaimed and returned to productive use as either wildlife habitat, agriculture, further industrial or commercial use, etc.

The New York Rock Talk section on this page provides even more interesting facts about mining in New York State. To some people, they're just rocks but, when extracted and processed, the mineral commodities of New York State are valued at more than $1 billion annually. The Conservationist Magazine has included articles about New York States mineral resources and mined land reclamation, Treasures Of The Earth and New Beginnings For Old Mines.

As part of an ongoing environmental forum series, the Albany Law School convened a panel discussion on "Sustainable Development and Mining: Perspectives on New York State's Mined Land Reclamation Law" (PDF) (37.8 KB). A former Division Director participated as one of the panelists and his discussion of the issues includes a historical perspective on the implementation of the Mined Land Reclamation Law, as well as some insights into the DEC application and review process for mining applications, a process that is not always well-understood by local governments and the public.

Another source of information about New York's mineral resources is the New York State Geological Survey (link leaves DEC's website) at the State Museum in Albany, where many geological records and maps are on file, along with the world's oldest and largest collection of New York rocks and minerals, and an extensive list of geological publications. A complete list of Survey publications may be obtained from: NYS Museum and Geologic Survey 3140 Cultural Education Center Empire State Plaza Albany, NY 12230.

Additionally, the Division of Mineral Resources regulates the oil, gas, and solution salt mining industries in New York State. Data and statistics pertaining to these industries can also be found on our website.

DEC geologists and mined land reclamation specialists both teach and learn from other professionals in their fields, maintaining contact with government and industry mined land reclamation units. The principal forums for this exchange of information are professional and popular publications and professional conferences and meetings. If you have any questions about mining in New York State, please reach out to your regional Mined Land Reclamation Specialist and they will do their best to provide you with answers.

Treasures of the Earth

Christine Reed

Published in The New York State Conservationist August 1997

To some people, they're just rocks. But New York State is a treasure trove of sand and gravel, stones and minerals that -- when extracted and processed -- are valued at more than $1 billion annually.

Many of the materials are familiar: Sand and gravel, crushed stone, salt (both the table and road varieties). But did you know that New York State has the only major mine in the United States of high-grade wollastonite? A mineral with a needle-like structure, its qualities of durability, moisture-resistance and color-fast brilliant whiteness make it suitable for a wide variety of uses from dental cleaning, to car bumpers, to vinyl floor tiles. Wollastonite is also the stuff in the match heads that makes them burn evenly.

New York ranks among the top five states nationally in the production of salt, zinc, talc and garnet. Garnet is the official gem of New York. Ground down, it provides abrasive for sand paper. Polished up, it's a gem stone. One of the largest garnet mining operations in the world is near North Creek in Warren County.

A mineral quiz: What does Albany's Empire State Plaza have in common with the moon? Both feature anorthosite, a metamorphic rock composed mainly of feldspar and some pyroxene and garnet that forms a hard durable stone commonly used in high traffic areas, such as the Plaza. It's one of the primary rocks of the highlands of the moon. It's only found in a few places on Earth, including the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. Mt. Marcy (New York's highest peak) and Whiteface (the Olympic) Mountain are both made mostly of anorthosite.

Under state law, DEC oversees mineral extraction from mines and wells. Currently, there are more than 2,500 DEC-regulated mines. (DEC also oversees the operation of more than 12,000 oil, gas and salt wells.)

Since 1860, about 65,000 wells have been drilled in New York. One of the major objectives of the DEC Division of Mineral Resources is to see that mining and drilling operations cause minimal impact on the environment. DEC requires that operators design and carry out reclamation plans to restore, and often improve, the landscape. In recent years, reclamation projects have included community benefit projects that resulted in nature preserves, recreational trails, wetlands and restored wildlife habitats.

The reclamation project at the Galster Sand and Gravel Pit near Manlius, Onondaga County, earned a national award for its owner, T.H. Kinsella Inc. Working with DEC, the mining company excavated 36 acres to a depth of about 20 feet and into the water table. By going beyond the regulatory requirements, the operator developed a 20-acre lake, tennis courts, golf greens, playing fields and picnic areas. The area now abounds with waterfowl and wildlife, including geese, blue herons, fox, deer, turkey and pheasant.

Reprints of the entire article that appeared in the August 1997 Conservationist, with photographs of common minerals of New York State, are available from the Division of Mineral Resources. See our Mineral Resources Public Information Order Forms.

New York Rock Talk

  • There are almost 2,000 permitted operations in New York State producing roughly two dozen mineral commodities and affecting over 50,000 acres of land that need to be reclaimed.

  • New York ranks in the top 20 nationally in non-fuel mineral production (based on 2012-2013 data).

  • New York has the only commercially-producing wollastonite mine in the United States and supplies nearly all of the Nation's uses. On a global scale, New York is the 3rd largest wollastonite producer, after China and India.

  • New York is the 3rd largest salt-producing state in the U.S.

  • Commercial production of salt began in Syracuse due to the difficulty in getting salt during the War of 1812.

  • In 1825, money from the taxes on salt was used to build the remaining leg of the Erie Canal, allowing salt to be transported to the Great Lakes. As such, the canal was nicknamed "the ditch that salt built".

  • In the 1800s, Irish salt workers in central New York used the boiling salt vats to cook their potatoes at lunch, thus introducing salt potatoes.

  • New York and Pennsylvania are the only sources of commercially-produced bluestone in the United States.

  • Garnet is the official New York State Gem.

  • Barton Mines Corporation, located in the Adirondacks, was the first industrial garnet mining operation in the world and is also the oldest continuous garnet mining operation in the world. Prior to 1982, the Gore Mountain Mine was the largest garnet mine in the world.

  • New York was once considered a major zinc producer with one of the top ten zinc mines in the country.

  • New York holds over $300,000,000 in financial security to make sure mined land is reclaimed to a beneficial use.

  • There is no coal in New York State.

  • It takes approximately 65,000 tons of aggregate, including sand, gravel, and crushed stone--enough to fill a standard football field 27 feet deep--to build one mile of the New York State Thruway.

  • Each and every one of us in New York uses over 110 pounds of mineral products per day for building roads, sidewalks, houses and other buildings-over 20 tons per person per year.

Did you know...?
  • Look around--if it can't be grown, it has to be mined.

    Mineral products are used by billions of consumers every day, but -- amazingly -- more than 99.9 percent of the earth's surface has never been touched by mining.

  • Mines can't just be constructed anywhere. They have to be where the natural materials are found.
How many...?

How many different metals and mineral products from mines are used to make the following:

  • Cell phone = 9

  • Compact Fluorescent Lightbulb = 15

  • LED light bulb = 18

  • Wind turbine = 12

  • Solar panel = 17

  • Hybrid car = 20

  • Contact for this Page
    Division of Mineral Resources
    625 Broadway, 3rd Floor
    Albany NY 12233-6500
    Send us an email
  • This Page Covers
  • Page applies to all NYS regions