Definition of Bluestone:
Bluestone is a commercial name for a distinctive variety of sandstone or wackestone found only in South-Central New York State and North-Eastern Pennsylvania. The stone is a strongly indurated (cemented) stone of various colors, which most typically splits easily into thin smooth slabs (Natural Cleft, Flagstone). Bluestone consist primarily of feldspars, quartz, phyllosilicates, and other accessory minerals held together by a strong siliceous cement.
Bluestone quarrying differs from other types of mining operations mainly because there are few large quarries and many smaller ones. More than 80% of all bluestone quarried in New York State comes from quarries less than 5.0 acres in total size. These quarries are typically run infrequently and seasonally in connection with farming and other occupations. The secondary ddifferenceis the method of bluestone mining. Bluestone is typically founded in horizontal to nearly horizontal beds. These bluestone beds are found interbedded with shales and various types of sandstones/silstones which have no commercial value. In order to quarry the blustone layers of rock (overburden) must be removed to expose the commercially viable stone.
For many smaller bluestone quarries excavation and removal of overburden is handled by an outside contractor. This contractor provides the necessary operators, and excavating equipment (bulldozer, track hoes and drills), in order to expose the proposed bluestone block. These blocks are generally irregular in shape and distribution with numerous joints and fractures throughout. Equipment used in the smaller quarries to remove the stone, consists of crowbars, shovels, hammers, drills, points, wedges, plugs and feathers, chisels, hand stone saws and less than 4.0′ power saws. As in the past, most work is manual labor intensive with minimal use of forklifts, bobcats and other smaller power equipment.
Bluestone is typically found either as thinly bedded (typically 1/2″ to 4″) slabs easily split into thin uniform layers, or as massive beds that have few to no needs ( predominantly organic material between the sanstone). The natural cleft or flagstone material is found in a small irregular blocks (less than 500 ft2) that are inconsistent in lateral and vertical extent.
Cause of waste:
Even in high quality bluestone quarries more than 80-90% of rock exposed is overburden which is suitable and wasted. Of the remaining 10-20%, a very good quarry will retain 50-60% of Bluestone to be sold from each individual block. Much of the waste is caused by imperfections in the rock which can not be controlled. The texture may be uneven, or wavy; joints may be irregular or closely spaced, the degree of cementration may lack uniformity or iron compounds may stain the stone. Add to this the inclusion of organic material and minimal bluestone maybe retrieved per block.
Unlike limestones, metamorphoc rocks and other commercially viable minerals throughout New York State, bluestone and overburden waste has limited applications. Some waste can be used as rip-rap pr crushed, but for smaller operations this is financially impossible due to remote locations and scope of material produced.
The New York State Bluestone Association has been formed for the sole purpose of affecting change to the current “Mined Land Reclamation Law”, as it relates the bluestone industry. Our goals are to work with the State of New York, to make regulatory changes that will insure the safety of the environment, while making it possible for the bluestone industry to remain viable.
Issues Of Concern
Bluestone quarries and dealers represent a significant economic resource in south-central region of New York State. Large numbers of direct employees, independent quarrymen and support businesses inject millions of dollars into the local economies of these regions through the quarrying and sale of bluestone. The tables below shows the monetary effects of bluestone mining on New York State.
The Issues confronting the N.Y.S. Bluestone Association, as they relate to the existing interpretations of the environmental Conservation Law, Article 23, Title 27, “Mined Land Reclamation Law” are summarized below. Regulatory relief for the Bluestone Industry is important due to the unique nature of bluestone quarry operations. These issues can be addressed through the existing law and through small changes in the law specifically addressing issues unique to the bluestone method of quarrying.
1). Grace Period while regulatory relief is agreed upon by DEC and N.Y.S.B.A.
2). Exclude Removal of Overburden as Part of 1,000 tons of Affected Minerals.
3.) Standardized Permit Process
4). Reclamation Changes
5). Haulageways not to be included in permit process
6). Lowering of permit annual fee
7). Small quarries to be excluded from SEQR process
8). Provide separate regulations for the Bluestone Quarries