Mining for Generations

For many families, salt mining is a way of life. That’s the case for the Bucci family, who has been a part of salt mining for over 100 years. Four generations of the Bucci family — Joseph G. Bucci; his son Joseph G. Bucci, Jr.; his father Joseph E. Bucci; and his grandfather Nicola Bucci — have held many different positions with the salt companies.


At the turn of the century, Retsof, New York was known as Little Italy. Many Italian families immigrated to the United States searching for work and new opportunities. Dozens of families from Campachiaro, Italy settled in the area and began working in the salt mines. Their lives centered around the mines and the salt company took care of the families in many ways. Families shopped at the company store for groceries, household items, toys, and more. They lived in homes built by the company and ice skated on the company rink in the winter. The salt company supported the Boy Scouts and other recreational programs. Life in the United States, working for the mine, gave these families a chance to succeed and improve their lives. Given this legacy, it was no surprise that many generations of families continued to work in the mines.


Nicola Bucci was actually born in New York City, yet lived most of his childhood in Campachiaro. He returned to America at age 11. After his marriage to Nicolina Sorro a few years later, they moved to Little Italy after hearing from other families about the opportunities.


Nicola held several positions with the salt company – he drove the mule cart in the mine before electricity was introduced, he worked in the bagging department, and he worked as a carpenter. Nicola was responsible for building and maintaining many of the 98 houses the company constructed for its workers. Ironically, in his last position as carpenter, Nicola’s boss at work was the foreman – a position held by his son Joseph E. Bucci. Nicola’s energy and enthusiasm for mining continued for 38 years. If you ever asked him how he was feeling, he answered, “like a million bucks.”


Joseph E. Bucci was the only one of Nicola’s seven kids to go into mining, which was very unusual. He began work at the mine right after high school. He was drafted into the Navy, then came back after WWII was over. He was promoted from foreman to supervisor, and eventually, to plant engineer.


Joseph G. Bucci (Nicola’s grandson) began working at age 14 in the company store. At that time, it was owned by International Salt Company. Later on, during summers and vacations from college, he worked in the mines and as a night watchman. After graduating from college, Joseph taught history for many years. He later started his own real estate company, which he still runs today. Joseph G. Bucci is one of the co-founders of American Rock Salt and is a member of the Executive Committee. Joseph’s son, Joe Jr., is American Rock Salt’s Environmental Manager.

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.
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.
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.
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.
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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