Manatee County extends meeting on Mosaic mining request

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

The giant fertilizer company Mosaic is asking Manatee County to re-zone a 3,500-acre parcel of land in the east part of the county to allow phosphate mining; the land near the border of Hardee County is currently zoned for agriculture, but during an all-day meeting that is spilling over from Thursday until next Monday, Mosaic asked the county to change the zoning to mining / extraction.

Bart Arrington, Mosaic’s mine permitting manager, described the mining process during Thursday’s Special Land Use Meeting.

“The dredge process, which will occur west of Duette Road is– they’re boats. We have two boats. When we mine the matrix, there’s a boat that mines the matrix, which is a certain level. There’s another boat that mines the overburden, because you have two layers. You have the overburden, but, you have to remove the overburden to get to the matrix, alright? So, that is done in a tandem process with the dredges.

“The depths there vary, depending on where the rock is, but, can be as deep as probably–What? 90-feet, David?–so, that’s what I’ve heard from some of our Wingate folks. But, it varies depending on where the rock is. That is the dredge process.

“Obviously since they’re boats and have to be on water and that water is a moving lake, essentially, you mine it at the front end of the pond and then the overburden and sand tailings are put back on the tailing end of the pond, so that as the pond advances, it’s filled in to the back. That’s how the dredge mine works and all that will be done west of Duette.

“East of Duette, there’s a dragline. It’s one machine that does both operations. You have the overburden, like I said before, and the matrix level. The dragline removes that overburden, puts it aside, exposes the matrix and the dragline also mines up the matrix. The dragline won’t go quite as deep as probably about 50 or 60 feet deep.”

As of the beginning of the meeting 68 residents had registered to speak, so the meeting will continue to next Monday, beginning at 10:00 a.m.

More than a dozen members of the public asked commissioners to reject Mosaic’s mining request. Two spoke in favor of the mining.

Mosaic says no new jobs are expected to be created. Here’s an exchange between Arrington and Manatee County Commissioner Charles B. Smith.

Smith: “I know with so much of a large land that you’re asking for us to rezone, I didn’t hear any testimony about a whole lot of jobs. I hear 125 jobs and 66 contractors. Is that what you have now?”

Arrington: “Yes. Yes, sir it is.”

Smith: “OK. So you’re not talking about increasing any employment, any contracts–”

Arrington: “It would be the continuation of that.”

Smith: “To maintain what you already have?”

Arrington: “That’s correct.”

In August 2015 a massive sinkhole formed on top of a giant man-made mountain of waste phosphogypsum at Mosaic’s New Wales plant in Polk County. It leaked more than 200 million gallons of polluted water into the drinking water aquifer.

The waste phosphogypsum from the proposed new mine will not be processed or stored in Manatee County, which has no “gyp stacks.” “It’s going to Bartow and New Wales” in Polk County, according to Mosaic.

A Mosaic expert told the Manatee Commissioners that phosphate mining will not increase risk of sinkholes.

A Mosaic ecologist told commissioners that endangered scrub jays have historically been found on the site of the proposed mine, but they’ve been “translocated.”

Mosaic says all mining in Manatee County uses 4.1 million gallons per day of water, about a tenth of the county’s overall use.


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