Renewed worries over plan for phosphate mine – May 8, 2010

The city of North Port in Sarasota County braces for phosphate mining in the Myakkahatchee Creek watershed, their source of drinking water.

By JASON WITZ Correspondent

Published: Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 1:00 a.m.

NORTH PORT – Renewed worries about the impact of future phosphate mining have prompted city officials to consider asking state and federal regulatory agencies to assess the potential risks phosphate mining would have on the area’s water supply.

On Monday, the City Commission will recommend sending a letter urging the agencies to conduct an environmental impact statement before any permits are issued for mining on land controlled by the Mosaic Co. north of the city.

“The letter is basically saying, ‘Be careful,'” said David Garofalo, City Commission chairman. “We’re not taking a stance either way at this point, but this is our drinking water.”

Mosaic could potentially mine two sites, called Pine Level and Keys, spanning portions of Manatee and DeSoto counties in the Central Florida phosphate mining region known as the “Bone Valley.”

Garofalo said officials are concerned about the possible downstream impacts any mining there would have on the Myakkahatchee Creek, the city’s primary water source.

A Mosaic spokesman said the company has no pending applications with any agency to begin operations at the two sites. The company’s current operations are centered farther north, largely in the Peace River basin.

“It is in our long-term plans,” said Russell Schweiss.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has issued two general environment resource permits authorizing construction of a fence and 20 monitoring wells at the Pine Level site, west of Arcadia.

For the last three years, the Southwest Florida Water Management District in Bartow has been reviewing a water-use permit which would allow ground water withdrawals of up to 76 million gallons per day to supply all Mosaic sites, including a Pine Level mine.

Mosaic representatives reportedly told city staff in April its intent is to install a phosphate processing plant and develop the portion of the mines located within the Peace River watershed. Any actual mining at the sites in question would be at a “much later date,” the letter said.

This week, the DeSoto County planning commission opposed Mosaic’s proposal to amend the county’s comprehensive plan for land use. The matter will go before the DeSoto County Commission May 25 at 1 p.m.

Representatives of the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, a regional coalition and longtime opponent of phosphate mining, question Mosaic’s intentions.

“We don’t trust them,” said Becky Ayech, president of the organization.

Brazil Farmers Drill for Fertilizer to Sidestep Vale/Mosaic – May 7, 2010

In Brazil phosphate prices have more than doubled in six years – Mosaic makes big profits from “feeding the world.”

By Lucia Kassai

May 7 (Bloomberg) — Farmers in Brazil have teamed up to drill an area the size of New York for phosphate-based fertilizers, seeking to cut dependency on producers including Vale SA and Mosaic Co. after prices surged.

Farm groups representing about 4,500 soybean and cotton producers in Brazil bought drilling equipment worth about 500,000 reais ($270,000) to prospect for phosphate on 80,000 hectares (197,700 acres) in the center-western state of Mato Grosso. They plan to expand prospecting to another 400,000 hectares and drill 300 to 400 holes in the next 30 days, said Gilson Pinesso, the head of the project.

Mosaic and Vale, which agreed in January to pay $3.8 billion for Bunge’s fertilizer assets in Brazil, control 45 percent of the country’s fertilizer production, said Carlos Florence, the Fertilizer Distributors Association’s managing director. Phosphate prices have more than doubled in six years to about $266 a ton, Florence said by telephone from Sao Paulo.

“Farmers are in the hands of those companies,” Pinesso, owner of eight farms in the states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, said in a May 4 interview in Sao Paulo. “We want our independence.”

The Mato Grosso Soybean Producers Association and the Mato Grosso Cotton Producers Association formed an exploration company, hired two geologists and 20 other people to conduct the prospecting, Pinesso said.

“We are looking for phosphate, but we may even run into gold here,” Pinesso said, while checking for soybean future prices on his iPhone. He was referring to the history of the state of Mato Grosso, which was developed after a gold rush in the 18th century.

Brazil is the world’s largest producer of sugar and coffee and the second-biggest for soybeans, trailing the U.S.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lucia Kassai in Sao Paulo at lkassai@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: May 7, 2010 17:30 EDT

DeSoto County P&Z Board Deny Mosaic Foothold-May 5, 2010

Nothing less than a historical victory for the Peace River Watershed was won last night!  In an opening volley of what is sure to be an ongoing battle to preserve and protect the Peace River and its attendant watershed and nearby environs, the will of the people was honored.

On Tuesday, May 4th, during a public hearing before the DeSoto County Board of Adjustments and Planning, a diverse group of Floridians, including a courageous 16 year old boy,  an implacable Octogenarian Matriarch, a nationally recognized economist and a local photographer, spoke out in ways simple and complex against the adoption of a General Phosphate Mining Overlay prepared by Mosaic that would have opened the door to eventual strip mining of approximately 26,000 +/- acres in the fragile ecosystem of the Pine Level/Big Slough watersheds.

The wonderful news is that the Board listened attentively enough to the numerous people that spoke against the amendment of the Future Land Use Map, that they voted 5-2 to deny initial transmittal of Mosaic’s request to the Department of Community Affairs!

This important decision will be at the center of further discussion when the DeSoto County Commissioners meet to consider the same proposal on May 25, 2010.

We the People of this region are the only voice the Peace River has.  We have the power and the responsibility to halt the expansion of the ravages of phosphate strip mining that has made an uninhabitable “moonscape” of huge portions of Polk, Hillsborough, Manatee and portions of Hardee Counties.

It up to us to make sure that DeSoto County remains pristine and beautiful and that the unsound mining practices of the multinational conglomerate that is Mosaic, never, ever has the opportunity to creep into DeSoto county to wreak permanent environmental destruction on our River, creeks, farms and groves.

This, our collective and mutual, Home, is precious and unique in Florida.  The Peace River is the lifeblood, the primary artery that feeds and sustains us all.  Let us, each and everyone, whether a public servant or private steward be informed of all the facts available so as to make an informed choice of how our Peace River is sustained and protected for generations to come.

The preservation and protection of a time honored way of life is at stake.  The proposed “mining overlay” that Mosaic has cobbled together with the help of DeSoto County staff, is nothing less than a death warrant for our way of life.

A coalition of several area citizen groups, including Protect Our Watersheds, Sierra Florida, ManaSota-88 and People for Protecting Peace River (3PR) submitted to DeSoto County a 7 page letter, along with a table of 11 Exhibits, that gives an excellent overview of concerns about the impacts of phosphate mining on our environment and on the health and well being of our communities.

Since these documents were submitted to become part of the public record they are available for your inspection.  I urge every Citizen in the area to “Get the Real Story” of the permanent, irreversible destruction of our watershed that a “Phosphate Mining Overlay” would usher in.

You may also review this document and others that pertain to this critical issue on the People for Protecting Peace River website:

http://www.protectpeaceriver.org/

Please mark your calendars and tell everyone you know to join you at the next meeting of the DeSoto County Commissioners on Tuesday, May 25, 2010.  Let our voices ring in the halls of our Elected officials: Tell them:  We the People, don’t want phosphate strip mining in DeSoto County!

See you there!

Respectfully submitted:

Genny Lee Hendry

Community Liaison

3PR

863-993-3249

DeSoto Overlay Letter

This excellent letter was drafted on behalf of a coalition of concerned environmental organizations (Protect our Watersheds, Sierra Florida, Manasota-88, and 3PR) by Percy Angelo of the Sierra Club Phosphate Committee. It was submitted to the Planning and Zoning Commissioners and the Board of County Commissioners of DeSoto County, Florida, in preparing for a series of hearings that would include 26,000 acres of farmland in Desoto County in the Generalized Mining Overlay. This is the first step in preparing for a local mine permit. Anyone interested in a point by point outline of the case against phosphate mine expansion in central Florida should check this out.