Environmental Groups Seek Second Halt to a Mosaic Phosphate Mine

More than 100 phosphate mining jobs are at stake in the dispute.
By Kevin Bouffard
The Ledger
Published: Wednesday, June 8, 2011 at 10:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 8, 2011 at 10:35 p.m.

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HAINES CITY | Environmental groups are taking another crack at getting a federal injunction to halt a Mosaic phosphate mine in Hardee County.
The Sierra Club and two local environmental groups on Tuesday asked Judge Henry Lee Adams Jr. of federal district court in Jacksonville to issue a new injunction before July 7, when an earlier Adams injunction expires. In April, the Mosaic Co. announced plans to mine an additional 700 acres of disputed land early next month.
The tract is part of a 10,583-acre extension of the company’s South Fort Meade Mine that has been the subject of a yearlong legal battle. The lawsuit challenges a mining permit issued last year by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Mosaic announced its mining plan for the 700 acres shortly after the 11th District U.S. Appeals Court in Atlanta vacated Adams’ June 2010 injunction against the entire Hardee mine. It sent the case back to Adams and left his injunction in effect for 90 days to allow the judge time for a new ruling after further review.

The 90-day period expires July 7, but Adams has indicated he may not complete his review by then.
In its Tuesday filing, the Sierra Club claims new mining would cause irreparable and irreversible harm to the environment on the 700 acres, affecting the headwaters of the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor estuary.
Mosaic counters the mining will occur only on “uplands areas” that are not as environmentally sensitive as wetlands, as Adams ruled in his 2010 injunction decision.
“We’re perplexed. The (environmentalists) are contradicting themselves,” Mosaic spokesman Russell Schweiss said in an email Wednesday. “Upland mining does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Corps permit, and we firmly believe their argument is invalid.”
About 98 percent of the 700 acres consists of uplands, and mining operations can avoid about 16 acres of wetlands, he said.
Mosaic has been mining on 200 acres of the Hardee tract under a November agreement with the environmental groups. But that area will be mined out this month, the company said.
Mosaic had laid off about 140 South Fort Meade workers before rehiring them after the November agreement.

[ Kevin Bouffard can be reached at kevin.bouffard@theledger.com or at 863-422-6800. Follow his Northeast Polk updates on Twitter at http://twitter.com/NEPolkbeat. ]