Part 2: Reviving Fowler's Zinc MinePosted: Updated:
A Canadian firm is trying what others haven't been able to do: reopen the zinc mine in Fowler. In Part 2 of his series, 7 News reporter Chris Spiker shows us how this time could be different - potentially creating hundreds of jobs in St. Lawrence County. You can watch his report Wednesday on 7 News at 6 and 11.
The zinc refining machines at Empire State Mines in Fowler have collected dust as they have been unused since 2008.
But in a few months, Titan Mining Corporation says the mill will churn out thousands of tons of zinc every day. With 24 full-time employees right now, Titan says it'll need many more workers when production starts in November.
"We'll be creating about 140 to 150 jobs very, very quickly, and that will ramp up through the year to about 190," said Titan Chief Operating Officer Keith Boyle.
Boyle says a little more than half of the workforce will come from the north country. The rest will be contracted workers brought in by another company.
But Boyle says turning north country residents into miners is important to Titan in 2018 and beyond.
"We've developed a training and localization plan to provide the training necessary to local people so that they'll be able to then take over those jobs over the year," he said.
At SUNY Canton, where zinc from the old Balmat mine is on display, a training plan is being created with help from Titan.
The goal of a program at SUNY Canton would be to get 120 people certified to work underground.
The engineering school's dean says miners could be trained to do a wide variety of jobs.
"They're hoping they can find 20 to 30 good face miners. They're people right down at the face of the mine, drilling and dynamiting rock and bringing out the ore. The rest that don't make it as face miners will wind up working as the other support services that are in the mine," said Mike Newtown, SUNY Canton dean of the Canino School of Engineering Technology.
The SUNY Canton plan would certify miners in 13 weeks.
"To have a miner go underground, they have to have a 40-hour MSHA certification, but they'd like them to have extra training to be a better prepared miner," said Art Garno, director of the Career Ready Education and Success Training (CREST) center at SUNY Canton.
Officials throughout the county say they're cautiously optimistic Titan will bring more jobs to communities like Fowler and Gouverneur.
"It's private sector employment, which is very, very important. The North Country needs private sector employers," said Ron McDougall, Gouverneur mayor.
"St. Lawrence County has a wealth of natural resources and whenever we have the opportunity to translate those resources into economic activity, we want to try to do that," said Patrick Kelly, CEO of the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency.
Ryan Schermerhorn, who was one of the eight employees during the mine's dormant decade, says Titan is different from previous buyers that couldn't restart the mine.
"We've been taken to the altar a number of times but finally, we're in a position where it's a when, not an if," he said.
Boyle says unlike other companies, Titan has the financial capital to fund its project.
"We've raised previously well over $11 million, and have been spending that money getting this place up and ready," he said.
Titan will look for more employees in August to fulfill its goal and a promise made to a rural community looking for industry.