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The St. Lawrence Zinc facility in Balmat. Photo: Google Earth.
The St. Lawrence Zinc facility in Balmat. Photo: Google Earth.

Zinc mine's sale 'very close'

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A Toronto-based mining executive says he's close to finalizing a deal to buy the zinc mines near Gouverneur. The sale would be the first step towards restarting a big part of the area's economy.

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Reported by

David Sommerstein
Reporter/ Producer

Hud Bay Minerals, a Canadian mining firm, closed the Balmat zinc mines in southern St. Lawrence County four years ago. But a skeleton crew of eight or nine people has been working to keep them from falling into disrepair.

Michael Hoffman says that fact - and HudBay’s findings that there’s plenty of zinc left - makes the mines a valuable asset. Hoffman says his company, Wildcat Zinc, is “very close” to finalizing agreements to buy the mines. The Watertown Daily Times reported a purchase price of $14 million last summer.

Zinc mining in New York has a long history, as this 1876 advertising label attests.
Zinc mining in New York has a long history, as this 1876 advertising label attests.
In an email this week, Hoffman says he projects zinc prices to rise over the next few years, enough to make the mines profitable again. He says Wildcat would also “spend money on exploration to extend the mine life.”

The zinc mines were once a major economic force in the region. Alex MacKinnon represents the Gouverneur area on the St. Lawrence County legislature. He says when he moved to the area in 1972, “there were 700 people working there. I mean, this was a major employer, three shifts a day, every day of the year.”

When the mines last closed in 2008, more than a hundred people lost their jobs. MacKinnon says most of them have left the area. But even what he’s hearing about a smaller crew of 25 to 30 miners would be huge: “The rumor mill was that they might be opened on a smaller scale, so if you could bring on twenty five jobs, the North Country needs it badly.”

Wildcat Zinc’s purchase of the mines has taken longer than expected. CEO Michael Hoffman says he’ll also need to get regulatory approvals before he can even talk about when the mines might reopen once again.

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