Mosaic Appeals District Court Injunction on S. Ft. Meade Mine Extension

Hello Everyone:

As you may or may not know, Mosaic filed a notice of appeal on July 15 with the 11th Circuit regarding our second preliminary injunction which was granted on July 8. That appeal (No. 11-13277-EE) has officially begun with the filing of Mosaic’s Motion for Stay Pending Appeal, which is attached here. Eric asked that I send all of you a copy of the document; if there are any questions, please feel free to contact me.


Amber E. Williams
Sierra Club Environmental Law Program
1650 38th Street, Suite 102W
Boulder, Colorado 80301
(T) 303.449.5595 ext. 104
(F) 303.449.6520
[email protected]

EPA, GOP In ‘Head-To-Head’ Fight Over Residential Radiation Standard

EPA, GOP In ‘Head-To-Head’ Fight Over Residential Radiation Standard
Posted: July 8, 2011
A group of Republican congressmen from Florida are battling EPA over whether the agency should survey parts of the state where it fears tens of thousands of people living on former phosphate mines may be exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, with the lawmakers challenging EPA’s long-held cleanup standard for radioactive contamination in residential areas.
According to one congressional staffer, the Republican congressmen and EPA’s administrator are in a “head to head” fight over the surveys, even as EPA is considering using them more widely.
At issue are approximately 10 square miles of former phosphate mining lands near Lakeland, FL, where EPA has taken no cleanup action despite having had concerns since the late 1970s that the indoor air of homes built on the lands is contaminated with cancer-causing levels of radiation. EPA’s concerns, made public by an award-winning series of Inside EPA articles in 2010, have prompted a negative reaction from the Republican congressmen, who believe the agency’s fears are overblown.
In February the lawmakers, who include Reps. Dennis Ross, Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Richard Nugent and Thomas Rooney, sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in which they take issue with EPA having recently conducted a preliminary aerial survey near the area in question, according to the letter, which Inside EPA recently obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The survey is considered to be a key early step in a possible cleanup process (Superfund Report, Feb. 7).
In the letter, the lawmakers call EPA’s long-held standard for cleaning up radioactive contamination in residential areas “arbitrary” and claim that past studies by the Florida Department of Health found no health risks in the area. Relevant documents are available on (Doc ID: 2369534)
In a May response letter to the congressmen, EPA waste chief Mathy Stanislaus does not directly address the lawmakers’ challenge to the agency’s cleanup standard. But he defends EPA’s use of aerial surveys and does not offer to halt such surveys or notify the lawmakers prior to conducting them in the future, as the lawmakers demand in their letter.
Stanislaus offers to meet with the congressmen, but according to an EPA spokeswoman, no such meeting has been scheduled.
According to a spokesman for Ross, the congressmen are “still in a head-to-head fight with [EPA Administrator] Lisa Jackson about getting notification on flyovers, let alone having them brought to a halt.” Spokesmen for the other lawmakers could not be reached for comment.
Stanislaus says that the limited survey EPA conducted earlier this year “contributed valuable information to the agencies as plans for a larger-scale survey were considered . . . Based on this information, EPA is considering a larger-scale aerial survey to collect data related to phosphate mining sites and background areas.”
He adds that it “is important to note that conducting an aerial survey is not necessarily an indicator of a concern or a need for remedial action. Surveys are also useful tools for confirming areas that are not considered to pose potential health or ecological risks.”
According to the EPA spokeswoman, EPA has not yet made a final decision on how to proceed with such surveys.
The EPA standard, which the agency has used as the basis for radiological cleanups near residential areas throughout the country, has long been a source of contention between EPA, Florida and phosphate mining industry officials. The disagreement is one of the main reasons why the agency has yet to act on its concerns about human exposure in the area (Superfund Report, Jan. 25, 2010).
The standard, which comes from EPA’s regulations under the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act (UMTRCA), dictates that radium-226 concentrations in soil — which are often elevated on land that has been mined for phosphate — should not exceed 5 picocuries per gram (pCi/g) above what naturally occurs in the area. EPA has long relied on the standard as an applicable or relevant and appropriate requirement (ARAR) under Superfund law for radioactive cleanups near residential areas around the country.
But Florida officials have argued that no cleanup is necessary unless people are being exposed to more than 500 millirem (mrem) of radiation per year, a suggestion that some environmentalists fear could set a dangerous precedent given that EPA has historically considered exposures above 15 mrem to be unsafe.
In their February letter, the congressmen claim that the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) “in reviewing the [EPA] standard, stated [it] could be set two orders of magnitude higher and still be protective of human health.”
But while ATSDR in documents previously obtained by Inside EPA suggests that it would be satisfied with a 100 mrem standard, the agency in the documents says it does not object to EPA relying on its traditional ARAR, to which the congressmen and state officials are opposed.
In addition, ATSDR says in the documents that it agrees with EPA that aerial surveys of the area are necessary.
But in their letter, the Republican congressmen call such surveys “an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars. Furthermore, the arbitrary standard advocated by the EPA creates a significant risk of placing an unjustified and permanent stigma over thousands of acres of land in [our] district[s].
“Florida’s real estate market is already under significant duress as a result of the economic downturn in our own state,” the lawmakers add. “These potential actions by the EPA stand to impede Florida’s recovery without any basis in human health risks.”
According to documents Inside EPA previously obtained under FOIA, many of the areas EPA is concerned with are occupied by wealthy, up-scale residential developments and resorts. But according to more recent documents, EPA is also concerned that some of the potentially affected areas could be low-income or minority communities, creating environmental justice concerns. — Douglas P. Guarino
© 2000-2011. Inside Washington Publishers

Douglas P. Guarino
Associate Editor
Inside Washington Publishers
(Inside EPA’s Superfund Report)
1919 South Eads Street, Suite 201
Arlington, VA 22202
mailto:[email protected]

Opponents challenge new Mosaic mining plan

Opponents challenge new Mosaic mining plan

Fort Meade Leader/Polk County Democrat
Staff Writer
Saturday, April 23, 2011 1:54 PM EDT
A plan unveiled earlier this week that would keep mining operations going for at least another year is being challenged by opponents who filed a lawsuit last year to stop an expansion at Mosaic’s South Fort Meade site.

An expansion into Hardee County that would involve mining about 7,800 total acres has been embroiled in legal wranglings since last summer. Mosaic is seeking the expansion to keep the mine operations uninterrupted, and avoid laying off about 140 workers.

A trio of groups, including the Sierra Club and People for Protecting the Peace River (3PR) filed suit to stop the expansion. A federal judge issued a halt to the expansion plan after the suit was filed, but earlier this month a federal appeals court sent that ruling back to the lower court with instructions to take a new look at its decision. It gave the lower court a 90-day stay of its injunction while it came up with a new ruling.

In the meantime, the two sides agreed last October to a deal that would allow Mosaic to mine 40 acres in Hardee County, thereby forestalling any layoffs. However, Mosaic said that would only allow them to mine there into early summer.

Late Tuesday, Mosaic revealed it had come up with a plan that would allow them to use those 40 acres to access another 700 acres on the site, dubbed Area 2, that did not involve any wetlands. As such, the phosphate giant said it did not need any further permitting for that idea, since permits were already in place before the lawsuit was filed.

But Dennis Mader, a Wauchula resident and president of 3PR, said not so fast.

“The 90-day stay was meant to preserve the status quo,” Mader told The Fort Meade Leader. “To mine Area 2 would affect adjacent wetlands, the very reason for which we challenged this permit in the first place.”

He also added that “by their (Mosaic’s) own previous arguments, to mine Area 2 would require re-permitting from the state.”

Mosaic described the 700 acres as “uplands” and not wetlands, in its court filing earlier this week.

The plaintiffs also argue that since the court case has currently stayed needed permits for expansion, “there is in effect no permit for Mosaic to comply with.”

Opponents note that the uplands proposal involves land that “surrounds and is immediately adjacent to the jurisdictional wetlands. Mosaic promises to ‘avoid’ the wetlands and not to ‘mine’ them. However, there would be adverse impacts to them.”

In addition, the plaintiffs noted that “any mining activity that affects the soils or subsoils of these adjacent uplands has the potential to alter the timing and volume of groundwater flows to these down-gradient wetlands.”

On Tuesday, Mosaic said it was planning on transitioning its mining operations to these 700 acres in the next 30 to 60 days. A company spokesperson said while mining only the uplands was less efficient than also including the wetlands for mining operations, it would allow them to “keep its workforce employed while it addresses the merits of the litigation.”

It is unclear if and when a court ruling might come on this latest plan.

On Tuesday, Mosaic officials said they didn’t expect a new ruling from the U.S. district court in Jacksonville on the larger lawsuit issue until July.

Mosaic Notifies Court of Mining Additional Uplands at South Fort Meade Mine

PLYMOUTH, Minn., April 19, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ —
The Mosaic Company (NYSE: MOS) announced that it has notified the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida that it plans to conduct uplands-only mining (i.e., non-wetlands) in an area at its South Fort Meade, Florida, phosphate rock mine in Hardee County. This upland area is accessible from the approximately 200-acre area where the Company is currently mining. Mosaic plans to begin transitioning its mining operations into these uplands over the next 30 to 60 days. The South Fort Meade permit for mining wetlands issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is under review by the District Court, as recently ordered by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The Company estimates approximately one to two years of mining potential in this upland area. Although the uplands-only mining will be less efficient than if the Company could also mine the wetlands, this transition will allow the Company to continue to produce phosphate rock and keep its workforce employed while it addresses the merits of the litigation concerning the permit for mining wetlands in the extension of the Company’s South Fort Meade mine into Hardee County. A ruling by the District Court is expected by July 2011.

FL House – Growth Management Bill Would Exempt Phosphate Mining from DRI Process

HB 7129: Growth Management (4/11/2011 PDF)

(t) Any proposed solid mineral mine and any proposed
7767 addition to, expansion of, or change to an existing solid
7768 mineral mine is exempt from this section. Proposed changes to
7769 any previously approved solid mineral mine development-of-
7770 regional-impact development orders having vested rights is not
7771 subject to further review or approval as a development-of-
7772 regional-impact or notice-of-proposed-change review or approval
7773 pursuant to subsection (19), except for those applications
7774 pending as of July 1, 2011, which shall be governed by s.
7775 380.115(2). Notwithstanding the foregoing, however, pursuant to
7776 s. 380.115(1), previously approved solid mineral mine
7777 development-of-regional-impact development orders shall continue
7778 to enjoy vested rights and continue to be effective unless
7779 rescinded by the developer. All local government regulations of
7780 proposed solid mineral mines shall be applicable to any new
7781 solid mineral mine or to any proposed addition to, expansion of,
7782 or change to an existing solid mineral mine.
7783 (u) Notwithstanding any provisions in an agreement with or
7784 among a local government, regional agency, or the state land
7785 planning agency or in a local government’s comprehensive plan to
7786 the contrary, a project no longer subject to development-of-
7787 regional-impact review under revised thresholds is not required
7788 to undergo such review.

S. Ft. Meade Mine Permit Awaits Final Ruling in Jax Fed Court

For Immediate Release – April 11, 2011

Eric E. Huber, Sierra Club Senior Staff Attorney, (303) 449-5595 ext. 101

Atlanta, GA — On April 8, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit vacated a
preliminary injunction on Mosaic’s phosphate mine known as the South Fort Meade
extension. The Court of Appeals found a procedural flaw in the injunction that had been
entered July 30, 2010 by the U.S. District Court in Jacksonville based on violations of the
Clean Water Act. However, the appellate court continued the stay of Mosaic’s permit for
another 90 days and sent the matter back to the district court to make a final ruling in that
Specifically the appellate court’s three page decision found that the district court
should not have remanded the permit to the U.S. Corps of Engineers when it issued its
injunction. The appellate court did not rule on the merits of the permit, i.e. it did not decide
whether the permit was legal or that it complied with the law. “We are disappointed that the
court of appeals did not affirm the injunction in its entirety,” said Eric Huber, Sierra Club
Senior Staff Attorney. “But we are glad that it stayed the permit for another 90 days which
protects the wetlands while we have another hearing in Jacksonville.”
Mosaic’s strip mine would cover 7,687 acres and destroy 534 acres of wetlands, 26
acres of open water and more than 10 miles of streams associated with the headwaters of
the Peace River and other streams. Phosphate strip mining entirely removes the land surface
down 50 or more feet, destroying wetlands and significantly impacting ground and surface
water flow. While surface reclamation occurs in theory, it is substantially delayed, often
unsuccessful and does not repair groundwater impacts. This disruption in flows affects water
quality and quantity in the watersheds involved, including the Peace River which flows into
the Charlotte Harbor Estuary, a federally recognized “aquatic resource of national
The parties reached a partial settlement last November allowing mining to proceed at
Phase 1 of the mine, comprising some 200 acres. In return, Mosaic agreed to protect 14.3
acres of environmentally desirable and difficult to replace “bayhead wetlands,” as well as
surrounding uplands, in the upper Peace River watershed, for a total of 40.9 additional acres
protected from mining.

For more information visit, and

S. Ft. Meade Mine Extension – injunction overturned

PLYMOUTH, Minn., April 11, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ —

The Mosaic Company (NYSE: MOS) announced that the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has vacated a preliminary injunction previously granted by the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida regarding Mosaic’s South Fort Meade mine. The preliminary injunction had prevented reliance on a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permit for the mining of wetlands in an extension of Mosaic’s South Fort Meade, Florida, phosphate rock mine in Hardee County. The Eleventh Circuit also set aside the District Court’s remand of the permit to the Corps of Engineers.

In vacating the preliminary injunction, the Court remanded the case to the District Court for a decision on the merits to determine, after a review of the full administrative record, whether the Corps came to a rational permit decision to be analyzed through the deferential lens mandated by the Administrative Procedure Act. The Court of Appeals also directed the District Court to stay the effectiveness of the permit for 90 days to permit the District Court to make a decision on the merits based on this deferential standard.

“We appreciate this timely ruling and are pleased with the outcome and directions provided by the Eleventh Circuit,” said Richard Mack, Mosaic’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel. “We look forward to presenting our case to the District Court as mandated by the Court of Appeals. The Hardee County Extension permit was an exhaustive, multi-year effort that resulted in the most extensively reviewed and environmentally protective phosphate mining permit in Florida’s history. We expect that our ongoing operations at South Fort Meade, together with other mitigation efforts, will be sufficient to support our finished phosphate production for the 90-day period set forth by the Court of Appeals.”

Mosaic in Face Off

Mosaic Faces Off With Environmental Groups Over Florida Mine

“What happens in this particular case may determine how much, and in what way, they continue to mine this entire area,” Huber said.

Mosaic Corp. (MOS) is facing off with environmental groups in Florida so it can maintain output of a key fertilizer component.
The fertilizer maker has secured water permits necessary to expand its mining operations in central Florida. Yet Mosaic, the world’s largest producer of phosphates, is fighting an injunction issued by a federal judge last summer after the Sierra Club and local environmental groups accused the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the issuer of the permits, of violating clean-water requirements.
At stake when the two sides return to court next month is about a third of Mosaic’s phosphate production. The Plymouth, Minn. company is experiencing growing demand for fertilizer made from the raw material as farmers try to keep pace with booming global food needs. Phosphate along with nitrogen and potassium, or potash, have drawn increased attention from governments and investors illustrated last year by a $38.6 billion bid byBHP Billiton (BHP) for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan (POT), a rival of Mosaic.
Mosaic plans to expand its mine in South Fort Meade, Fla. by 11,000 acres as production from the existing acreage dwindles. Investors expect the mine to keep operating, with earnings projections by stock analysts not factoring in the costs of production losses, said Horst Hueniken, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus in Toronto.
“The collective wisdom of investors is this place is not shutting down,” he said.
Hueniken estimated the mine’s closure could add up to $690 million in annual costs for Mosaic based on current market prices for phosphate, which the company likely would have to buy to replace the lost capacity. Phosphate currently sells for about $150 a ton.
In a recent interview, Mosaic Chief Executive Jim Prokopanko expressed confidence the company would prevail, saying the injunction has a “slim to nil” chance of being upheld on appeal. The company expects to prevail on the overall lawsuit as well.
At issue in the case is whether the Army Corps issued a permit for the mine expansion too hastily and violated the Clean Water Act. The Sierra Club and local environmental groups sued to stop the expansion, saying it could contaminate drinking-water supplies and fisheries in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, which is connected to the site through a network of swamps and streams.
The Mosaic mine is about 80 miles southwest of Orlando nearly smack in the center of the state. Phosphate deposits have long been mined in Florida, and the state accounts for about 25% of world production.
Sierra Club attorney Eric Huber dismissed Prokopanko’s confidence on the appeal as “puffery.” On average, only 10% of trial-judge rulings are overturned in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, where Mosaic’s appeal is being heard, the Sierra Club said.
“What happens in this particular case may determine how much, and in what way, they continue to mine this entire area,” Huber said.
Prokopanko said the Army Corps spent three years examining the company’s permit request, and that work shouldn’t be stopped by a single judge who looked at the case for a couple of days.
“This country would come to a screeching, roaring halt” if such decisions were allowed to stand, he said.
The federal appeals court will hear Mosaic’s appeal of the injunction April 4. A ruling isn’t expected for at least a month and could take four to six months.
For now, Mosaic can continue a 200-acre expansion of the mine, which will be depleted in May. After that, Prokopanko said the company could mine a 1,000-acre area for about 18 months while the case is heard, if need be. Mining the area will come at a higher costs, but will avoid wetlands on which the court case focuses.
CF Industries Holdings Inc. (CF) also mines phosphate in Florida. Chief Executive Stephen Wilson in July said the case was “a troublesome situation,” but noted CF has fully permitted mines that will last through the next decade.
-By Ian Berry, Dow Jones Newswires; 312-750-4072 ;
[email protected]

Florida Mine Battle Looms

Mosaic’s ‘Phos-Fate’: Florida Mine Battle Looms
By Scott Eden – 03/10/11 – 5:50 PM EST
Tickers in this article: CF VALE POT MOS
(Updated with response from Mosaic on the contested permit for the expansion of its Four Corners phosphate mine.)
NEW YORK (TheStreet) — The future of the Florida phosphate industry could hang in the balance early next month when a federal appeals court in Atlanta convenes to hear a set of arguments that pits two ancient adversaries — environmentalists vs. big business.
At the center of the dispute sits Mosaic(:MOS). Based in Plymouth, Minn. — 1,400 miles from its operations in the Sunshine State — the global fertilizer giant takes more phosphate out of Florida’s rich peninsular loam than any other company by far, accounting for about half of the nutrient produced in the U.S. in recent years. (Potash (:POT), a distant No. 2, accounts for about 25%, though most of that comes from North Carolina, not Florida. CF Industries(:CF) is third, with 11% of U.S. production).

The phosphate industry in Florida has long been controversial. Since modern dragline excavation techniques, capable of eating acres each day, came into use in the 1940s, it has strip-mined hundred of square miles of watershed in the center of the state, mostly from a region dubbed the Bone Valley by locals — excavations that have, on occasion, dried up rivers, critics and scientists claim. Its tailings have been poured into enormous, semi-toxic settling pools that have been known to spring leaks. The processing of phosphate rock into fertilizer produces radioactive gypsum, a byproduct that now covers about 3,400 acres, rendering it unusable.
But phosphate rock also happens to be the source of one of the world’s most important and effective plant nutrients — a substance that has taken on new relevance, rising to the level of national security, at a time of burgeoning fears over global food shortages. (Indeed, the element phosphorus is one of the fundamental building blocks of life).
For decades, the controversy in Florida remained little more than loud talk by local environmentalists who clashed in vain with Fortune 500 corporations. (The industry mined without any regulation at all until 1975.) But just within the last six months, all that seems to have changed. A series of lawsuits over mining permits has threatened to imperil Mosaic’s financial health.
In July last year, several local environmental and community groups, including a Florida chapter of the Sierra Club, sued to block Mosaic’s plan to expand its South Fort Meade mine. The company already has exhausted the rest of the plot. To lose the expansion then, would mean to lose between 4 million and 6 million metric tons per year of phosphate-rock production, or 32% of the company’s total output in its fiscal 2010.
Mosaic applied for permits to dig the nearly 11,000 acres of the South Fort Meade extension as far back as 2003. It took eight years to line most of them up, and by June 2010 it had received the last, from the Army Corps of Engineers, responsible for granting mining permits for areas delimited as wetlands.
For many years local environmentalists had urged the Corps to conduct an areawide impact study — one that would examine the effects of phosphate mining on the whole region, from the central Bone Valley all the way to the coast, where the waters of the valley empty via the Peace River and its tributaries into an enormous estuary called Charlotte Harbor, just north of Fort Meyers. A large-scale study of this kind hadn’t been done since 1978.
Environmentalists fear that the strip-mining has shredded the wetlands system that feeds those rivers — and, thus, the harbor.
“That’s our economic magnet down here,” says Jim Cooper, a retired Air Force pilot and the head of a local environmental group called Protect Our Watersheds. “They’ve never truly looked at the impacts on the downstream counties.”
When the Corps granted the permit without, once again, calling for a study, the group sued the Corps. According to the complaint, the environmentalists want the permit revoked until an areawide impact study yields its findings.
In July, a federal District Court in Jacksonville ruled partly in favor of the plaintiffs — enough of a victory that the court also issued a preliminary injunction that blocked Mosaic from proceeding with the South Fort Meade extension while it considered the environmentalists’ case. Within days, Mosaic appealed the injunction with the 11th Circuit court in Atlanta. The appellate will hear oral arguments from both sides in a one-day proceeding, scheduled for the week of April 4.
There has been at least some room for compromise. A settlement reached in October — after the Atlanta court forced the parties to sit down in mediation — allowed Mosaic to mine 200 acres of South Fort Meade, enough for about four months worth of mining, or 900,000 metric tons of phosphate rock. In return, the company agreed to leave a 40-acre piece of wetlands untouched. Mosaic is close to finishing those 200 acres.
As it turns out, as well, Col. Alfred Pantano of the Jacksonville district of the Army Corps of Engineers ordered a new areawide study this past summer. It’s expected to take a year and a half to complete.
Mosaic has long defended itself as you would expect a multibillion-dollar company to defend itself: with vigor and with a platoon of lawyers. In 2008, Manatee County in Florida denied the company a permit to mine on 2,000 acres — an extension to Mosaic’s other big mine in Bone Valley, called Four Corners. The county worried that the new operations would damage the community’s primary source of drinking water. Mosaic sued Manatee County for $618 million. (That was the difference, the company said, between the value of the tract as a mineable and un-mineable piece of Bone Valley land.) Manatee County’s board of commissioners soon reversed its position.
Mosaic’s official public stance when it comes to South Fort Meade is that this will all break in its favor. “We will be mining at South Fort Meade, and we’ll be at or close to full capacity there once we work through these legal issues,” Mosaic’s finance chief, Larry Stranghoener, told TheStreet in an interview. “That’s our expectation.”
Meanwhile, however, the company has pursued backup plans. Last year, it spent $385 million to buy a 35% stake in a new Peruvian phosphate mine majority owned by Vale(NYSE:VALE). Mosaic is slated to receive only 1.5 million metric tons of phosphate rock from Peru this year — not nearly enough to make up for the potential loss of South Fort Meade’s 4 million to 6 million tons.
To meet customer demand for its phosphorus fertilizers, Mosaic would boost production at one of its other mines, such as Four Corners, which sits adjacent to the Fort Meade tract. Most likely, though, it would need to shop overseas, in Morocco, which has come to rival Florida as the most phosphate-rich patch in the world, and buying from third-party miners on the other side of an ocean is far more expensive than simply digging it out of the Bone Valley. Mosaic’s profit margins would be squeezed.
“It’s critically important to us,” Stranghoener said. “It’s our largest and lowest cost rock mine. It produces about 35% of the rock we need. If we don’t have access to rock from that mine — which is not an outcome we expect — it would have a significant impact on our operations. And we’ve been making that very clear to people.
“I would also say, though, that we have a lot of ways to ensure that we’ve got the rock we need to continue to produce phosphate product,” he went on. “So I don’t want to minimize it. It’s a big deal. But we’re confident in the outcome of the underlying legal case and that we’ll move forward.”
Some on Wall Street say that investors already have discounted Mosaic shares to account for the total loss of South Fort Meade. Edlain Rodriguez, a stock analyst for Gleacher & Co. in New York, says he’s already removed the mine from his earnings estimates for Mosaic.
“You kind of assume the status quo, that they’re not going to produce much from that mine. And if this thing goes away, it goes away,” he said.
Depending on phosphate prices, he says, a fully functioning South Fort Meade extension would be worth 30 cents to 50 cents a share each year in net income. That would add about $5 to the company’s share price, he estimated.
Others have a somewhat more jaundiced view. Chris Damas, a trader and analyst at BCMI Research in Toronto, who specializes in natural-resource and agricultural stocks, believes Mosaic’s phosphate business in Florida has turned “toxic” because of the permitting problems as well as potential environmental liabilities.
Mosaic discusses these issues in the lengthy “legal proceedings” sections of its regulatory filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company says it takes its “evironmental stewardship responsibilities very seriously.” According to Stranghoener, “Once we’re done mining, we restore the land to a better condition than what it was before we started mining. And we spend a great deal of money to do that.”
More than just the fate of South Fort Meade hangs in the balance in Atlanta. The same Sierra Club-led group has sued the Army Corp of Engineers over its earlier granting of a permit for the expansion of Mosaic’s Four Corners mine, which produced 5.6 million metric tons of phosphate rock in fiscal 2010, or 42% of the company’s output that year. It’s the same place that Mosaic forced Manatee County to back away from, through its $618 million lawsuit.
Though Mosaic has continued to mine there without interruption, the Sierra Club litigation is still pending. The court, in essence, has twinned the two cases — South Fort Meade and Four Corners, which together make up 76% of the company’s annual estimated phosphate capacity — and has told everyone to sit tight, pending the appellate court decision in Atlanta. Whether Mosaic can mine in Florida at all may come down to the outcome of the hearings in April.
Until that decision is made, Mosaic investors will have Florida on their minds.
A Mosaic spokesman, however, offered this clarification: Even if the permit for the Four Corners expansion (called the Altman tract) were revoked, it wouldn’t reduce the company’s phosphate output at the mine. Mosaic would simply move the dragline at Altman to another, nearby phosphate reserve that is fully permitted and ready to go, of which the company has several.
— Reported by Scott Eden in New York
>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Scott Eden.
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Tickers in this article: CF VALE POT MOS

Legislature to Consider Neutering Counties’ Fertilizer Rules

Sarasota Herald Tribune
ERIC ERNST: Bill would take teeth from local fertilizing rules

By Eric Ernst
Published: Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 9:19 p.m.

Contrary to popular belief, or perhaps wishful thinking, a legislative bill in Tallahassee would negate the most important parts of fertilizer rules in Sarasota and Charlotte counties.
Interpretations may vary, but that’s the view of Cris Costello, regional representative of the Sierra Club in Sarasota. She should know. The Sierra Club spearheaded efforts to pass the local laws several years ago to curb the flow of phosphorous and other nutrients into bays and the Gulf of Mexico.
The bill sponsored by two Panhandle representatives would prohibit counties and cities from enacting their own rules. Instead, they would have to adhere to what’s being called “model” statewide legislation, which of course would be weaker and in no meaningful way interfere with business as usual.
The local ordinances prohibit applications during the summer when fertilizer-laden stormwater runoff is most likely to trigger algal blooms such as red tide. They also regulate fertilizer content, setting mandatory levels of slow-release chemicals that are more likely to be absorbed by plants rather than wash into the water.
It makes sense to approach the problem of red tide this way, although if reputable scientific research uncovers flaws in the logic, local jurisdictions can certainly respond with adjustments.
The bill, probably to placate opposition, purports to exempt jurisdictions such as Sarasota and Charlotte that have new rules in place. That assurance is little more than a sham, Costello says.
“The grandfather date applies only to standards not relating to fertilizer content, application timing, application placement and sale,” she wrote in an e-mail.
That means the only parts left of the Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee ordinances would be the standards relating to the management of grass clippings and vegetative material.
“All of the protective standards — rainy season application bans, fertilizer-free buffers, required 50 percent slow release nitrogen — would be eliminated.”
Apparently, having standards that fit the area in which the fertilizer is actually being used is inconvenient to manufacturers and retailers.
They want a one-size-fits-all approach to something that’s not a one-size problem. One of the most compelling reasons to tailor the rules locally is that the drainage patterns and water flows, not to mention the climate, differ from one part of the state to another.
If some businesses can’t adjust to that, too bad for them.
Plenty of smaller, more nimble ventures are ready to take up the slack, as some already have in Sarasota County.
If people want to buy fertilizer, no matter what the formula, companies will respond to produce it and sell it.
And if people use a little less, that’s OK, too, for environmental reasons.
Trying to legislate from Tallahassee, and putting oversight in the hands of the state Department of Agriculture, usurps local control, undermines protection of natural resources and just makes it a lot easier to subvert the process.
It’s probably pure coincidence, but the Lakeland Ledger published an interesting story on Jan 25. Mosaic Co., the phosphate/fertilizer giant, just paid $10,000 for a chocolate hazelnut cake entered by Abigail Putnam in the Polk County Youth Fair Auction. The amount was 10 times larger than any ever received for a cake.
Abigail is the 9-year-old daughter of Adam Putnam, Florida agriculture commissioner.
Eric Ernst’s column runs Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Contact him at [email protected] or (941) 486-3073.