Manatee County Commission reverses vote on Mosaic plan
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12/16/08 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:

Despite protestations by environmentalists, the Manatee County Commission today voted to reverse its September denial of a 2,000 acre mining project in the Peace River Basin.

Three months ago, the previous County Commission rejected the Mosaic Company’s plan to mine the Altman Tract by a 4-3 vote. Since then, two of the commissioners who voted against the mine have left the board. And Mosaic, the world’s largest phosphate mining company, was threatening to sue the county for more than $600 million.

The county attorney argued today that it was in the best interests of the county to settle. Jim Minix is an attorney with Manatee County, and he explained the situation to WMNF.

Minix said he was not sure the county would ever be forced to pay $600 million, "but a lot less than that can be a very significant judgment, both for Mosaic and for this county, particularly considering the budget era we're in at this point.”

The proposed settlement would allow Mosaic to mine the site without having to wait until it has restored wetlands destroyed in the first phase of mining.

But Minix insisted there would be no immediate mining. Minix said environmental groups may still be able to stall the project. He also said Mosaic would need to obtain required land-use approvals.

Minix appealed to commissioners not on whether the settlement was good or not overall for the county, but on a more brutal assessment regarding who had deeper pockets.

A coalition of environmental groups had earlier sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for improperly granting a permit to Mosaic in the Altman Tract earlier this year. The Corps then withdrew the permit, and this may continue to hold up the project.

At the public comment portion of the hearing, some citizens argued the commission should not act out of fear. One resident, Linda Jones, called the reversal "a travesty of justice.”

John Corvick told the commission he had already found dangerous elements in his water.

But his words went to no avail, as commissioners voted 5-2 to reopen public hearings on Mosaic’s plan. Commissioners Joe McClash and Ron Getman voted no, as they did in September.

In exchange for the mining, Mosaic has vowed to build a new park and a fire station if the mining expansion is approved.

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