• Himrod and Watkins Salt Mines

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New York State.
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New York State.

Moderator: Otto Vondrak

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  by Sandy
 
Another thing that came to mind when i read the deed transfers in the local paper. It stated the transfer from Morton International LLC to Morton Salt, Inc. What seemed odd was that it stated the towns of Milo, Starkey and Torrey, it must
mean the mineral rights underground as i don't believe Morton owns any land in the towns of Starkey or Torrey. Kind of
odd, ain't it.
  by poppyl
 
Sandy wrote:Another thing that came to mind when i read the deed transfers in the local paper. It stated the transfer from Morton International LLC to Morton Salt, Inc. What seemed odd was that it stated the towns of Milo, Starkey and Torrey, it must
mean the mineral rights underground as i don't believe Morton owns any land in the towns of Starkey or Torrey. Kind of
odd, ain't it.
The formation encompassed by the mine stretches to the south past the Shannon's Corners area (well into Starkey) and to the north just into the Town of Torrey. Mineral rights (probably exclusively salt and not including nat gas) would be "transferred" to the "new" owner along with the ground property. BTW, environmental liabilities would also follow the ownership.

The environmental issues associated with the brine and tailings have not been resolved to DEC's satisfaction as far as I know. I don't see how anyone would buy the property without a final environmental green light from the DEC. And it may be cheaper for Morton to continue to pay taxes on the property for some period of time rather than to completely remediate it, particularly if the assessment continues to drop as above ground facilities (and utilities) are razed. I also doubt that Morton would receive a permit to reopen the mine without completion of the environmental remediation and explicit assurances that past practices won't happen again.

So I have no reason to be optimistic about the site at this time. I have no inside info on what the hats were doing there recently but it wouldn't surprise me if they were engineers scoping/estimating a project for later this year to remove the site utilites. Utilities are the first to go in and last to come out, and there probably is a good amount of copper buried on the site.

As I said, I think the key to the future of the site, be it with Morton or someone else for salt or anything else, is the closure on the environmental situation. Once that happens, something may happen with the site.

Poppyl
  by Sandy
 
Thanks Poppyl, that sounds more likely then anyone actually wanting to start operations especially being it has sat so long, do you think it would even be feasible to reactivate the shafts since it's been 30 + years since they have been operational?
  by scharnhorst
 
Could any of this have anything to do with that Natural Gas exploration? like the one that has been going on up and down 14 and 414?
  by poppyl
 
Sandy wrote:Thanks Poppyl, that sounds more likely then anyone actually wanting to start operations especially being it has sat so long, do you think it would even be feasible to reactivate the shafts since it's been 30 + years since they have been operational?
The mechanicals were removed from both headends after the mine was shuttered so they would have to be reinstalled. The headends themselves are probably still okay although they would require a structural analysis to verify. The cased shafts would also need to be inspected to verify no water leakage (which was a major problem when they were sunk) through and around the grout. Assuming that the salt has remained dry, the downhole equipment and utilities should be usable if they were mothballed properly. Lots of "ifs" and this doesn't even consider that there are no aboveground facilities left to handle the product.

Poppyl
  by poppyl
 
scharnhorst wrote:Could any of this have anything to do with that Natural Gas exploration? like the one that has been going on up and down 14 and 414?
Doubtful, but never say never on anything. IF NYS ever reopens horizontal drilling the site might be a useful pipe,equipment, and sand storage area (probably on a leased basis) with rail service at the FGLK yard across the road. Large amounts of land in the area of the mine are already under lease even though the Marcellus is not very thick. There are other deeper gas bearing formations that may be of more interest.

Poppyl
  by Sandy
 
Poppyl, i know in many reports that the Seneca Lake Mine is on standby and has been for years, What does that mean and
why did they remove the mechanicals from the headframes, did they use them in other Morton facilities or did they want to
make the mine inoperable for a reason, maybe something else is stored there for a reason that they don't want us to know. It's hard to believe that they would invest all that money on a salt mining operation when they were advised to do so by Dawson Geo Physical corporation at that time to recommend mining operations at that facility. It's hard to believe that such a mistake was made due to reports that it was to expensive to remove shale from the salt as it was earlier mentioned. I believe there was a reason for that mine to be put there for some reason, maybe something to do with the army that was across the lake, seems kind of odd. A company the size of Morton Salt doesn't make that kind of mistake unless it was put there for a reason. I have seen paperwork from them where they wanted to barge salt from there property in the 70's on Seneca Lake, It just doesn't make sense, so many unknowns.
  by poppyl
 
Sandy;

I wish that I had definitive answers for all of your questions but I'll answer what I can. As long as the shafts remain open (and not permanently plugged) the mine is considered to be in a standby mode. The mechanicals were removed to prevent access and as part of the effort to salvage anything useful on the site. I imagine that they were used elsewhere within the Morton mining operations but I do not know that for a fact.

I don't buy into the "urban myths" surrounding other "uses" of the mine after it shut down as I've seen no real and verifiable evidence to support any of the rumors.

In terms of why the mine was built and then shut down relatively quickly, only Morton can answer that. IMO, the main reason was economics -- decreasing overall demand for the product versus somewhat higher production costs when compared to other Morton rock salt mines. I believe that Morton made a business decision, perhaps influenced to some degree by the tailings environmental situation.

Poppyl
  by RussNelson
 
Sandy wrote:did they want to make the mine inoperable for a reason, maybe something else is stored there for a reason that they don't want us to know.
UFOs. As everyone knows, the only way to hide a UFO (which are made from artificial diamond) is down inside a salt mine. The crystals of salt hide the crystalline diamond from their scanners. And of course they had to bring the UFOs in on the railroad, at night. And they had to build and shutter the salt mine quickly so they wouldn't be able to look down into it. It all makes perfect sense if you only know the truth.
  by lvrr325
 
Salt could easily have been barged out of there, the Cayuga-Seneca Canal connects to the modern Erie Canal and then could go to Oswego, Albany or Buffalo.
  by scharnhorst
 
how deep is the Water Table at the mine? Maybe is could make a good place to pack garbage into if they ever wanted to prevent damage to above ground propertys. I know that this was becomeing vary populer in Northern Ontario, Canada with many of the below ground Mines.
  by poppyl
 
Not sure that the residents around Severn Point Road would appreciate a barge loading facility. In the "old" days Watkins Salt received coal by barge and occasionally shipped out salt by barge. Of course, they sit right by the lake versus the mine which is about a mile and a half away up the hill.

In terms of the water table, we hit water at 50 feet and continued to encounter major water until we were below the lake bed (about 1000 feet in shaft depth) and just above the salt. The salt itself is impervious to water and below the water table. The problem lies with the access shafts and their grouting. If the grout lets go, the mine will fill with water.

Poppyl
  by march hare
 
As a former mining company geologist, let me assure you that big companies such as Morton can and do make gigantic mistakes like this. Just because you have a lot of money, (or access to a lot of money on loan) doesn't mean that you can't do something fantasitcally stupid. It happens all the time. Lots of mining properties look good on paper until you actually get into the ground and start moving stones around.

For example, there is a rich copper deposit immediately to the west of Kennecott's huge open pit mine at Bingham Canyon, UT, just south of Salt Lake. The company I used to work for spent something on the order of 20 million bucks to bring it on line as an underground mine in the late 1970s.

Within a few months, they found they'd made a colossal mistake. The ore was in beds that dipped at about 45 degrees, too steep for conventional room and pillar techniques but not steep enough for vein-style mining. Compounding this, they quickly found that the ore ( a type known as "skarn", very hard stuff) was far harder than the rock that surrounded it. Thus, when the ore was dumped into the vertical passageways bored through the rock from one level to another, it rapidly eroded the surrounding rock. So what had been a 20 foot ore pass was now 24, now 28, now 30 feet wide, with irregular sides. Boulders kept getting locked in place, and had to be dislodged with explosives, which made the passes even bigger and more irregular.

We actually killed somebody this way, setting charges to loosen the locked up boulders, which gave way while he was standing on them.

To make matters worse, the bottom fell out of the copper market right about then, with copper prices dropping over 40 percent and staying down for years.

The ore deposit still sits there today.
  by joshuahouse
 
If people don't think that things can go wrong with salt mines they clearly haven't lived in upstate New York very long. I was living in East Bloomfield when the mine in Retsof began to collapse and was woken by that.
  by RLauer
 
Hello, I came across this and it seemed very interesting to read. My father used to work at that plant in Himrod and I remember it very well. The talk of the plant being shuttered is pretty much correct but he is not sure of the contamination issue, he told me that Morton Salt execs regretted closing the plant and it was based on a recommendation at the time by a young man based on some weird documention I guess, he was fired 6 months later. The actual salt vein underground is about 30 ft wide and runs from Syracuse NY to Chicago IL, they tapped into that one I guess. He says most of the equipment was shipped to the Morton Salt Mine at Fairport Harbor in Ohio and one within New York State, White Plains or something like that. The 2 head frames hoists went to a mine (Non Morton Salt) in Minnesota. He says the head frames have a 2' concrete case that also has rebarb in it, very hard and expensive to tear down. The 2 shafts are sealed at ground level with steel plates but they both have air holes for ventilation. He guesses that they are flooded with water to the water table level. There was always issues with water in the mines and the sheer weight pushing the mine ceilings down. He did say they abandoned vehicles down there when they ran out of time to bring it all up before the deadline. The taller headframe was for salt and equipment and the smaller one was for the employees. We actually went into the plant last August just to look around and to reminace about those days, I took alot of pictures and it is amazing how the building have crumbled, actually went into my fathers old office in the far back building where the truck ramps are. Kinda sad actually. We lasted about an hour until the Cops showed up. Someone must have seen us and called them. The Cop said they have problems in there with kids partying in the buildings. He knows of no plans to reopen it as it would cost alot of money, as for selling it, like mentioned above, the buyers would have to accept the liability of the property but you never know what the future holds for it. I think they should open it for bungy jumping!

Bob Lauer
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