NY Salt Mining Industry Threatened by Foreign Importers

This article is featured in the Livingston County News.

The Greater Rochester and Finger Lakes area relies on governmental policies that support local employers who create good paying jobs, provide critical domestic supplies and whose operations support other businesses and local governments.

Current state policies force municipalities to honor the lowest bid, resulting in contracts awarded to foreign rock salt companies. In many cases, the competing bids can be as close as a few cents per ton.

More and more, foreign rock salt companies have moved to undercut the domestically sourced market, importing product from sources having substandard or non-existent environmental, health, safety and workforce standards from places like Chile and Egypt. It is not a level playing field for American salt mining companies.

Salt mining is a generational vocation for many people living in Western and Central New York, and has provided a prosperous living for hundreds of New York State miners, truck drivers, and railroad workers. It has been a major economic driver in the state for decades. This is now being threatened by foreign importers.

At the moment, Gov. Kathy Hochul has the opportunity to approve new legislation designed to protect the jobs of American miners here in her own state. This year, legislation entitled the “Buy American Rock Salt Act,” sponsored by Assemblyman Harry Bronson, D-Rochester, and state Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, passed both houses and awaits Gubernatorial approval. With co-sponsorship from Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes, R-Caledonia, and state Sen. Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma, the Act passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Simply put, the legislation empowers the municipality by providing the option to choose rock salt mined in the United States, eliminating the requirement that municipalities must go with the lowest bid.

To be clear, the legislation does not prohibit foreign suppliers from importing rock salt, or limit their ability to bid the market in any way. There is not a tariff on imported salt, or percentage preference for American mined rock salt. What the legislation does do however, is provide the municipality the right to choose salt that is mined in the United States of America.

The New York State Buy American Salt Act legislation is a win-win in so many ways for our region. By securing good local jobs, strengthening our domestic supply chain, lowering costs for local governments and maintaining a critical, locally-sourced product to keep our roads clear and safe during our area’s harsh winters, approving this legislation just makes total sense.

In the spirit of the Labor Day holiday, our hope is that Governor Hochul will not VETO this legislation, and she will continue her support of New York State labor, and the American miner!

Joe Bucci Jr. is environmental, health and safety manager for American Rock Salt in Mount Morris.

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Undercutting
The extraction process begins with undercutting the mine walls level with the floor. A self-propelled undercutter carves a massive channel at the base of the deposit and across the entire room. This channel allows for a more efficient explosive blast and also helps create a smooth mine floor.
Drilling
Once the mine wall is undercut a special drilling machine bores small holes into the face of the salt. Then miners will prime these holes with explosive materials and prepare to start blasting.
Blasting
Miners ignite the explosives, creating a blast that dislodges 800 to 900 tons of rock salt in less than three seconds. The depth of the mine and cushion of the overburden absorbs the blast vibrations, preventing any surface damage to immediate and surrounding areas.
Loading
Huge front-end loaders transport the blasted rock salt to the primary crusher. Loaders dump their loads of salt into a powerful spinning crusher, where large pieces are quickly crushed and screened down to small pieces. The salt is then transported to the hoisting shaft where skip hoists bring the loads to the surface in a matter of seconds.
Transportation
Upon reaching the surface, the salt is stored here at the mine in our huge stockpile where it is loaded and sent out to customers by rail car or by truck.
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Joseph Bucci is the CEO and co-founder of American Rock Salt. Joe has been in and around the salt mining business his whole life, as his father and grandfather both worked in the mining industry at the Retsof Salt Mine.