Judge rules against environmentalists on Florida phosphate mining

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

A federal judge has ruled in favor of phosphate mining in Florida and against a coalition of environmental groups trying to slow the expansion of mining in West Central Florida.

WMNF News interviewed Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director and senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.


“The plaintiffs in this case were the Center for Biological Diversity, the People for Protecting Peace River, ManaSota-88 and Suncoast Waterkeeper and they represent individuals that live and recreate in West Central Florida. Counties like Hillsborough County, Sarasota, Manatee, Hardee, DeSoto, Polk – right there, close to the Tampa Bay region. We brought this case under some federal environmental statutes to ask the Federal District Court to take a look at some decisions that the Army Corps of Engineers had made, with respect to approving Clean Water Act’s 404 permits to engage in increased phosphate mining in central Florida.”

Clean Water Act, what kind of…?

“404 permits. They are type of permits that individuals need when they want to dig up wetlands.”

So the Army Corps gave the go-ahead to dig it up and then you filed this lawsuit, but, the judge ruled against you?

“Yeah, that’s right. What we were specifically asking the judge to do was to look at the Army Corps’ permitting of one particular mine called The South Pasture Extension mine, which is in Hardee County. It would extend an existing phosphate mine an additional 7,500 acres. That mine approval was part of a larger programmatic approval by the Corps, a few years ago, to authorize more than 50,000 total acres of ecosystem damage in central Florida. Those mines would cover 4 major mines: Ona, DeSoto, Wingate East, which is already under construction, and now this South Pasture mine. Ona mine and DeSoto mine are two mines that have been authorized by this decision from the Corps that have not yet begun groundbreaking, but, will probably start in the foreseeable future.

“So, we’ve asked the court to overturn the decision making because this level of wetlands destruction and habitat destruction, I would say it’s unprecedented. It’s probably unprecedented anywhere else, except for in Florida, where we’ve had hundreds of thousands of acres of land mined for phosphate.”

Lopez says the environmental groups have not yet decided if they’ll appeal the judge’s decision.

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