The state’s mining industry — usually out of the public eye except when noise or dust complaints are raised — has been providing a critical element of the post-flood rebuilding effort, pumping out stone and concrete at maximum speed for more than six weeks now.
Cobleskill Stone Products fired up production this week at its long-idle mine in the village of Cobleskill in order to keep up with the massive demand for stone sparked by damage from tropical storms Irene and Lee.
“We have been hauling stone from all our quarries and then reaching out to other suppliers in the Capital District because there’s such a huge ongoing rebuilding process,” said Emil Galasso, owner of Cobleskill Stone Products, which operates mines in Schoharie, Otsego and Montgomery counties and elsewhere.
Galasso said the company recently ground out 10,000 tons of stone to repair Barnerville Road in Cobleskill and 25,000 tons of big stones — the ones that weigh 6 to 8 tons apiece — for creek and streambed repairs.
“We’re working 24/7. That’s all we can do because the demand is so great,” Galasso said, lamenting the fact that many of his employees in Schoharie County are working extra hours despite major damage the storms did to their homes.
Work to fix miles of washed-out roadways, undermined bridge abutments and rivers and streams has created a push to produce building products at a pace the local mining industry hasn’t seen in three decades.
The last time heavy trucks were hauling so much stone was in the early 1980s, during the construction of Interstate 88, said Joe Tesiero, a principal at Cranesville Block Co. and owner of the Scotia Sand and Stone Co.
Tesiero said heavy hauling truck operators, concrete producers and many employees have been going at it for weeks now.
“Everybody’s busy. There’s a lot of people working long hours, guys giving up another Saturday,” he said.
The rebuilding effort has brought on a resurgence of the local mining industry — Tesiero said 2011 had been a bad year because of the sluggish economy and resulting lack of major building projects.
Employees who were laid off as things got slow are back on the books. Many who were expecting unemployment checks will have paychecks instead and a “nice Christmas,” Tesiero said.
Tesiero said the slowdown in activity meant there was quite a bit of crushed stone and gravel already available. This material is used as a base for roads and also as aggregate for concrete.
Teserio said the company’s asphalt production was dealt a blow, however, when a Level 1 tornado tore through Cranesville on Sept. 4, taking out one of the company’s asphalt plants off Route 5S.
The tornado tore off the roof and destroyed electrical components of the facility, the former Adirondack Power and Light Building with the distinctive smoke stacks.
Both Tesiero and Galasso said the challenge at this point is to come up with massive boulders that are being used to shore up creeks and rivers.
“It’s tougher to make those,” Galasso said, pointing out that nature and physics are the hurdles when trying to use explosives to break a solid rock formation into big chunks of several tons each.
Drilling and blasting are typically done in a way to create much smaller stones that fit nicely in the crusher for conversion into gravel of various sizes. The boulders that are in high demand now aren’t usually sought. Getting them requires more precise blasting.
“We don’t usually try to get a big stone,” Tesiero said.
Tesiero said the company’s mine in Kingston performed a special blast Wednesday in an effort to produce heavy and medium stone from the size of beach balls to the size of a desk.
These big stones are produced during normal blasting operations. But they aren’t often in demand, so workers set them aside until they’re needed.
It didn’t take long for that demand to arise in the wake of tropical storms Irene and Lee.
“They’ve all been used,” Tesiero said.
The big rocks are used to support the sides of waterways and in creeks and riverbeds. They act like shock absorbers and stay put in strong current, Tesiero said.
Truckers, who Tesiero said were having a slow year themselves, are ruining their truck beds hauling these massive boulders, so they’ll likely be upgrading their trucks next year, another post-disaster boon to the economy.
Companies like Cranesville Block and Cobleskill Stone sign up each year to serve as emergency contractors for state work, so the price they get for their products was set long before the disaster struck the Northeast.
With that method, Tesiero said, the state gets a consistent price for needed products and it eliminates any chance of price gouging.
According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, New York state ranks 15th in the nation for non-fuel mineral production, with mining taking place in every county outside New York City.
The state is ranked seventh in the production of sand and gravel for construction, and non-fuel mineral production is valued at an estimated $1.5 billion, according to the DEC.
Other mines are expanding or playing different roles to help the region cope with the destruction, according to DEC Region 4 spokesman Rick Georgeson.
Locally, the DEC approved temporary mining permit changes for Carver Sand and Gravel, he said.
The company’s Masick pit in Middleburgh was allowed to expand the area it used to mine for new material. It built a new access road to accomplish this, and operating hours were expanded to cope with demand as well.
The company’s Becker pit in Middleburgh and Pagnman Road pit in Conesville were allowed to accept uncontaminated flood debris, including rock, soil and woody debris, through September 2012, Georgeson said.
The company can use the debris for useful purposes, including grinding rocks into gravel and chipping the wood into mulch.
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Categories: Business, Schenectady County