Environmentalist wary of Mosaic moving corporate headquarters to Hillsborough

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Mosaic phosphate
Phosphate mining in Florida. By Jaclyn Lopez (used with permission).
Mosaic sinkhole
Mosaic’s New Wales phosphate manufacturing plant near Mulberry in eastern Polk County. By Seán Kinane / WMNF News (27 Sept 2016).

The giant fertilizer company Mosaic announced last week that it plans to move its corporate headquarters from Minnesota to Hillsborough County; the announcement by the Fortune 500 company was greeted by many local leaders with delight.

But environmentalists, like Suncoast Waterkeeper Andy Mele, accuse Mosaic of being a detriment to the community.

“I think Mosaic’s move probably makes sense for them on a business level. But for the rest of us here in Florida who have been getting strip-mined pretty much into the state of a banana republic, at least in West-Central Florida. You know, they come to town, they burrow in like a parasite, they build a rodeo arena or – ironically a nature center – and then they apply to strip mine 10, 15, 20 percent of your land. Land that’s currently [nature] habitat, agriculture, jobs. And they strip mine it into ruins that are barren for hundreds of years.  You know, a little bit of stuff grows, but no habitat, no species, no agriculture, no jobs. If any county government dares to say ‘no,’ they sue you for those – presumably – lost revenues. And they’re more than happy to bankrupt your county. They tried to do that to Manatee County. They’ve been bullying their way through the so-called Bone Valley. Hardball tactics. They’re just not good neighbors. There’s nobody from Mosaic that I want to see move to Hillsborough County, anywhere near me. In fact I think that we should just rise up and drive them the hell out of Florida with torches and pitchforks.”

Rick Scott on Mosaic sinkhole
Florida Governor Rick Scott talks about the sinkhole at Mosaic’s New Wales phosphate manufacturing plant near Mulberry in eastern Polk County. By Seán Kinane / WMNF News (27 Sept 2016).

But in a press release, Mosaic makes a point of saying how much of an economic impact they make in Florida. They say that during the 2017 calendar year Mosaic’s impact in Florida included $465 million in payroll, $28 million in county tangible and real estate taxes and $40 million in state severances and sales taxes.

“Well, congratulations. Considering the costs of what they leave behind. Huge mountains of toxic, hazardous and radioactive waste. Twenty-four of them: Huge, huge mountains – like a square mile footprint that they’re not going to deal with. That the future generations are going to have to deal with. Those things are going to be there for a thousand years. Archaeologists are going to be looking at them some day in the future.

“Payroll is great. Mosaic nets about a million dollars per acre of Florida land that they ruin and destroy. Most of that money goes off to [their] shareholders. Anything that’s profit goes to the shareholders. They have generated a few thousand jobs; 3-4 thousand jobs. There’s 20 million people in Florida; 3-4 thousand jobs is nothing. It’s a drop in the bucket. We wouldn’t notice it if they left town tomorrow. It’s false reasoning.”

Listen to the interview here:

Mosaic phosphate mining
Phosphate mining in Florida. By Jaclyn Lopez (used with permission).

“Right now Mosaic is so fly-by-night. They have one office up in Lithia, I think and a couple of shell houses in the counties where they’re mining where the same people who go to all these county commission hearings for the permit applications dutifully list their addresses – their home addresses – as these Mosaic shell houses. You never see a car in the driveway. They’re just ridiculous. It’s like nobody notices.

“I don’t think [Mosaic moving to Florida] will matter. And I don’t think it will have any impact on the astonishing array of spills, disasters, broken pipes and sick people. Hillsborough County should wake up to the fact that there are thousands of people who are reporting unusual illnesses. Illnesses that bear a very suspicious resemblance to the sorts of illnesses that are listed on the Material Safety Data Sheets and the [Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry] ATSDR’s data sheets for a whole variety of toxic substances that come out of the phosphate process and get piled up in these big mountains. I think it’s a really bad idea.”

Mosaic says it’s the world’s largest combined producer of potash and phosphates. These are used to fertilize plants to grow food. So this something that we need, right?

“Look, 25% of the world’s agricultural acreage is in traditional – like family – farms. And those 25% of the world’s acres produce 50% of the world’s food. Traditional forms of farming – like regenerative agriculture, carbon farming, organic agriculture – those things are vastly more efficient in terms of food production than factory farming and mono-cropping and the sort of things that the phosphate fertilizer gets used for. In fact, the whole Green Revolution and factory farming is kind of a hoax. Look at it this way: you’ve got Mosaic, you’ve got Cargill, you’ve got Nestlé and you’ve got Monsanto, all seeking to obtain – they all basically share the same business model, which is to monopolize the world’s food supply. So factory farming is basically a Trojan Horse. I think we need to pay more attention to what the U.N. is doing, what other nations around the world are doing. And just say no to phosphate.”

Mosaic announced last week it had finally plugged its massive sinkhole in Mulberry that drained more than 200 million gallons of polluted water into the drinking water aquifer.

Resident near Mosaic sinkhole says well is polluted

Another company announced last week that it had spilled two tons of fertilizer into waterways that lead to Tampa Bay. But now it appears that a smaller amount of pollution was released. The Tampa Bay Times reports that the energy company Kinder Morgan now says that 200 pounds of fertilizer dissolved into the water of a channel leading to Tampa Bay. Fertilizer can cause algae blooms but Kinder Morgan says it “does not expect any environmental impacts.”

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