Mosaic wants 4 months to extend South Fort Meade Mine

Mosaic wants 4 months to extend South Fort Meade Mine

Tuesday, August 17, 2010 12:56 PM

(Source: The Ledger)By Kevin Bouffard, The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla.

Aug. 17–HAINES CITY — A Sierra Club lawyer has rejected a Mosaic Co. request to agree to limited phosphate mining in northern Hardee County that could avoid up to 221 layoffs at the company’s South Fort Meade Mine.

“The judge found the mining permit was illegally issued. It’s an illegal act they’re proposing,” Eric Huber, a lawyer at the Sierra Club Inc.’s Colorado office, said Monday.

Mosaic last week asked U.S. District Judge Henry Lee Adams Jr. in Jacksonville to modify a preliminary injunction he issued on July 30. The injunction halted Mosaic’s plan to extend the South Fort Meade Mine, which employs 260 people, into 10,750 acres in northern Hardee.

The ruling stemmed from a June 30 lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club and two Florida environmental groups challenging a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit to extend the mine. Adams agreed the Army Corps had failed adequately to explore alternative mine plans that might cause less environmental damage to the area, which includes 534 acres of wetlands and 56,666 feet of streams that feed into the Peace River.

After the Adams ruling, Mosaic announced it would shut down the South Fort Meade Mine in September. On July 12 it notified 221 mine workers they faced layoffs in 60 days if the Sierra Club prevailed in the lawsuit.

Mosaic has asked Adams to modify the injunction to permit the first phase of the mine extension into an area that contains only nine acres of wetlands that had already been disturbed, said Russell Schweiss, a company spokesman. That would allow mining for about four months.

“We’ve asked the Sierra Club to support the motion so that we do not have to resort to layoffs,” Schweiss said in an e-mail statement on Monday. “A lot of lives hang in the balance, and they have the opportunity to spare a lot of families from significant hardships.”

But Huber said he had already informed Mosaic’s lawyers on Friday that the environmental groups, including ManaSota 88 and People for Protecting Peace River Inc. in Wauchula, would not agree to the proposed modification.

“The truth is it’s the Mosaic Co.’s inept strategic planning, not the Sierra Club, that’s at fault (for layoffs), and it’s certainly not the employees,” Huber said.

The Sierra Club has until Aug. 30 to file its written response to the Mosaic offer with the Jacksonville court. If Adams declines to change his ruling, the case heads to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, which will consider Mosaic’s plea to reverse Adams.

Adams has set an Oct. 28 deadline for all parties to file written arguments on the lawsuit’s ultimate request for a permanent injunction against the mine extension. That would prohibit any further work in northern Hardee at least until the Army Corps further reviews environmental impacts, which could take one to three years.

Mosaic employs 2,166 workers at its Polk County facilities, which also include the Four Corners and Hookers Prairie mines and the Bartow and New Wales fertilizer plants.

Judge tells Mosaic to halt work at site near Peace River

By Christopher O’Donnell

Sample Page

Published: Saturday, July 3, 2010 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, July 3, 2010 at 12:43 a.m.

A federal judge has halted work at a 10,800-acre site in Hardee County that would bring mining closer to the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor watershed.

Middle District of Florida Judge Henry Adams ruled that local environmental groups stand a good chance of success in their lawsuit that accuses the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of violating federal law by granting the Mosaic Co. a mining permit June 14 without sufficient review.

The temporary restraining order will halt operations at the site until a hearing on a more permanent injunction scheduled for July 22. Mosaic were preparing the site until the order but had not yet begun mining.

Damage to the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor and their headwaters is “sufficiently likely” if mining starts, Adams said in his order.

In their lawsuit, environmental groups claim the Corps of Engineers failed to hold a public meeting on the project and should have conducted an Environmental Impact Statement. The National Environmental Policy Act mandates such a statement if a project significantly affects the environment.

Corps officials determined that the environmental assessment was not needed despite a request from the Environmental Protection Agency, nearby counties and citizens that one be conducted, according to the lawsuit.

Corps officials did not return a call for comment.

The Corps has since agreed to conduct an environmental assessment on the phosphate mining impacts on the Peace River basin.

“You’re supposed to do those up front,” said Tom Reese, a lawyer representing the Sierra Club.

A federal judge has halted work at a 10,800-acre site in Hardee County that would bring mining closer to the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor watershed.

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Middle District of Florida Judge Henry Adams ruled that local environmental groups stand a good chance of success in their lawsuit that accuses the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of violating federal law by granting the Mosaic Co. a mining permit June 14 without sufficient review.

The temporary restraining order will halt operations at the site until a hearing on a more permanent injunction scheduled for July 22. Mosaic were preparing the site until the order but had not yet begun mining.

Damage to the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor and their headwaters is “sufficiently likely” if mining starts, Adams said in his order.

In their lawsuit, environmental groups claim the Corps of Engineers failed to hold a public meeting on the project and should have conducted an Environmental Impact Statement. The National Environmental Policy Act mandates such a statement if a project significantly affects the environment.

Corps officials determined that the environmental assessment was not needed despite a request from the Environmental Protection Agency, nearby counties and citizens that one be conducted, according to the lawsuit.

Corps officials did not return a call for comment.

The Corps has since agreed to conduct an environmental assessment on the phosphate mining impacts on the Peace River basin.

“You’re supposed to do those up front,” said Tom Reese, a lawyer representing the Sierra Club.

The site, close to Polk County, includes 534 acres of wetlands and 10 miles of streams that feed the Peace River, a main source of drinking water for an estimated 700,000 Floridians.

Mosaic officials said the permit was subject to extensive reviews but would not comment on whether an environmental study should have been conducted.

Mosaic officials said delaying the project would affect Hardee County, which stands to benefit from a $42 million contribution by Mosaic toward local infrastructure.

DeSoto County Sets Stage for Environmental Headaches (DeSoto Sun Herald Op-Ed 06/09/10)

… as county commissions in Hardee and DeSoto Counties open their doors to expanded phosphate mining operations in the Peace River watershed we are inviting degradation in our own backyards….

As crude oil from the BP/Deepwater Horizon well pours inexorably into the sensitive environment of the Gulf of Mexico, remember that only a few weeks ago Florida was debating the possibility of allowing off-shore drilling along its coast. The environmental community staunchly recommended against it – because the consequences of the environmental damage associated with off-shore drilling were an unacceptable risk to the economy as well as the environment of our beautiful state.

Likewise, as county commissions in Hardee and DeSoto Counties open their doors to expanded phosphate mining operations in the Peace River watershed we are inviting a similar kind of degradation to occur in our own backyards. A recent editorial in The DeSoto Sun complimented a decision by the county commission to approve a mining overlay which more than doubles the amount of land in the Pine Level area on both sides of Horse Creek that are designated for phosphate strip mining (an additional 17,000 acres). This decision by the commissioners has unquestionably legitimized the presence of Mosaic phosphate company in their midst and moved the county one step closer to strip mining operations with no regard for the recommendation of their advisory board or the will of their people.

We are told these days of wide-spread disenchantment with incumbent politicians who are oblivious to the will of their constituents. It could not have been any more obvious than at the May 25 Hearing in Arcadia when public sentiment was overwhelmingly opposed to the approval of the comp plan amendment allowing for additional mining by the people who live in the Pine Level community. As always we were reminded repeatedly that the amendment would not allow mining, and that there will be a rigorous DRI process before mining can actually be permitted. Yet, on the other hand, had the DeSoto Commissioners denied the expansion of the mining overlay that night, the door would have been closed on phosphate strip mining in the county – precluding a DRI.

The Sun Herald editorial extols the record of mine reclamation since 1975. In fact only 28% of all of Mosaic’s mined land has fulfilled total reclamations requirements. 37% is suitable only for “industrial” standards – that is, development like waste disposal and power plants. Mined land is no longer suitable for productive agriculture which is historically the basis of the DeSoto County economy. Reclaimed soil is substandard and is typically overgrown with cogon grass which is non-native and unsuitable for cattle forage. There is no denying that at least 40% of mined lands will end up as clay slime disposal – which is unsuitable for construction and agriculture, and considered by the US EPA as a “permanent impact” on the Peace River watershed. According to the Soil Suitability Index “where reclaimed overburden and sand tailing landforms are situated in the path of urban growth, and real estate values are elevated…  such lands may be viewed as developable. Little if any urban development has taken place on waste clay disposal sites, which is understandable given the extreme physical shortcomings of clays as support for foundations.” This would explain why the vast majority of old phosphate land, even that which has been “reclaimed,” lies fallow and abandoned. Most of it is uneconomical for any kind of development.

To contend that the phosphate controversy is “not real,” as the Sun editorial apparently does, is naïve and inattentive. There is an abundance of scientific documentation on the negative effects of mining on the watersheds, agriculture, and urban development by the US Geological Survey, the EPA, DEP, and Water Management District. I suggest your readers go to Google Maps and check out the landscape from Ft. Green to Bradley Junction. Have a good look at what phosphate strip mining has done. All the water entrapped in those mine cuts and clay slime impoundments is water that once contributed to the aquifer which supplies our rivers and coasts. Also check out the 3PR website www.protectpeaceriver.org to consult the studies and other evidence that support our case against the phosphate industry.

Dennis Mader

President 3PR (People for Protecting Peace River)

Ona, FL

Manure Provides Higher Returns Than Chemical Fertilizers

Texas AgriLife Research economist said manure generates higher economic returns than anhydrous ammonia.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100628124559.htm

ScienceDaily (June 29, 2010) — No significant differences in corn yield were found between organic and chemical sources of nutrients, but a Texas AgriLife Research economist said manure generates higher economic returns than anhydrous ammonia.

Dr. Seong Park, AgriLife Research economist, recently had his research published in the Agronomy Journal. The work was from studies he conducted in the Oklahoma Panhandle while at Oklahoma State University and finalized while in his new position at Vernon. The long-term experiment involved the use of pig and beef manure on irrigated corn fields, he said. The testing was conducted in part due to a rapid growth of animal population and density in that region, as well as the northern part of the Texas Panhandle. Park said when swine manure, which is normally stored in open-air lagoon systems, is properly applied and the economics figured, the effluent can be used as manure with minimal environmental and nuisance concerns. Animal manure, he said, benefits producers by reducing waste management costs and the need for chemical fertilizers because it contains multiple essential crop nutrients, according to previous research. Park said the key between animal manure transitioning from a cost (for disposal) to a benefit (as a fertilizer) is determined by agronomic and economic factors such as chemical fertilizer costs and equipment and labor needed to apply each. Anhydrous ammonia was the most costly nitrogen source across all three equivalent nitrogen rates of 50, 150 and 450 pounds of nitrogen per acre, with costs of $30.86, $54.88 and $126.95 per acre, respectively. He said the higher costs of anhydrous were due to the purchase price, which is not required normally with the use of beef and swine manure. Swine effluent had the lowest costs at $12.06, $17.98 and $34.51 per acre for the three application rates. The lower costs for the swine effluent are associated with the ability to apply it through existing irrigation equipment, requiring only minimal purchase to pump from the lagoon to the center pivot, Park said. Both the anhydrous and beef manure require the purchase of application machinery, he said, which adds a fixed cost. Because of that cost, beef manure application costs were higher than swine, at $30.52, $35.47 and $47.19 per acre, respectively at the same rate. Beef manure, however, becomes a more economical choice if the crops are located away from the originating farm of either manure, Park said. While swine effluent has a lower breakeven price, it is too bulky to transport off-farm to other producers. “The breakeven is figured by using the actual price of corn plus the cost of fertilizer,” he said. “During this study, there was a widening margin in the breakeven between the animal manure-treated corn crops and anhydrous ammonia-treated corn crops, which generated an increased profitability for producers and increased the economic viability of marketing beef manure as a commercial fertilizer.” Park explained if beef manure averages $2.20 per ton with a shipping cost of 50 cents per mile, it can be profitably transported up to 29 miles from its point of origin in the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles and be competitive with high anhydrous ammonia prices, as experienced from 2005-2007. Another benefit of animal manures is the improvement of soil properties such as micronutrients and soil pH, Park said. Throughout his experiment the beef-manure and swine-effluent plots maintained higher soil pH levels than the corresponding anhydrous plots. Additionally, continued application of anhydrous can lead to acidification and thus losses in productivity, he said. Appropriate nutrient-management practices should be implemented to prevent environmental damages. Park also warned that site-specific conditions such as weather, animal waste management practices and soil properties would need to be taken into consideration when adapting this information to locations outside the Oklahoma Panhandle. “This is a unique economic study on various nitrogen fertilizers using rare and valuable data from a long-term field experiment from 1995 to 2007,” Park said. “The next step is to determine best nutrient practices based on this experimental data.” Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Texas A&M AgriLife Communications. The original article was written by Kay Ledbetter. ________________________________________ Journal Reference: 1.    S. C. Park, J. Vitale, J. C. Turner, J. A. Hattey, A. Stoecker. Economic Profitability of Sustained Application of Swine Lagoon Effluent and Beef Feedlot Manure Relative to Anhydrous Ammonia in the Oklahoma Panhandle. Agronomy Journal, 2010; 102 (2): 420 DOI: 10.2134/agronj2009.0166

 

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:

https://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.

EPA Radiation Protection Standards

As a result of the presence of elevated concentrations of radium-226 and other radionuclides in phosphate ores and mining wastes, many individuals residing in Central Florida are exposed to undesirable levels of radiation. In the absence of adequate measures to protect public health, many more could be exposed in the future, depending upon developing mining and land use patterns. The major exposure problem is associated with structures, principally residences, that are constructed on, near, or using radium-bearing materials related to phosphate ores…. In the United States, the phosphate deposits of Florida contain concentrations of uranium and its decay products at levels about 30-60 times greater than those found in average soil and rock. The presence of this radioactive material in extensive land areas in Central and Northern Florida creates the potential for radiation exposure of the general population living on or near this land.

Read the study here:

EPA Radiation Protection Standards

84,000,000 gallons of contaminated water drain into White Springs sinkhole

The state Department of Environmental Protection has created a new Web site to provide up-to-date information on its ongoing sampling and monitoring of the local water supply after 84 million gallons of contaminated water was released in a spill at PCS in White Springs.  This comes after discovery of a sinkhole inside a phosphogypsum stack system at PCS’s Swift Creek Chemical Complex on Dec. 10. The Swift Creek Chemical Complex is located just east of US 41, about 10 miles northwest of White Springs. The stack system stores process wastewater and gypsum resulting from PCS’ phosphate fertilizer manufacturing operations at this site, according to a DEP press release. “Based on site inspections and ongoing collection of monitoring data, it appears that PCS’s production wells are containing the process water on site and not contaminating the aquifer offsite or nearby potable drinking water wells,” according to a DEP press release. “In an abundance of caution DEP has continued its monitoring of the process wells, local private wells and the waters of the Suwannee River.”  The gypsum stack in which the sinkhole formed is about 140 to 150 feet above ground level, according to DEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller. The sinkhole was about 40 to 50 feet in diameter with a depth of at least 100 feet below surface level, said Miller. The deepest production wells are 750-800 feet deep.  “Aerial surveys and exploratory drilling are being conducted to gather information about the depth and geometry of the subsurface opening which will allow more precise measurement and guidance in grouting the sinkhole,” Miller said.  Furthermore, Miller said no processed water was released before PCS was able to turn on its wells.  “PCS already had wells in operation at the time of the formation, additional wells were put into operation within the hour to make sure they were doing everything they could do to capture the release,” said Miller.  Miller confirmed that some broken chunks of gypsum did fall into the sinkhole. Miller also said there is not a synthetic liner beneath the gypsum stack, but rather a natural clay barrier below the stack area. Concerned citizens can now view the new Web page, which provides up-to-date information on DEP’s ongoing sampling and monitoring: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/secretary/pcs_sinkhole.htm  “This new webpage allows us to make the information about these efforts readily available to the public,” said Deputy Secretary for Regulatory Programs, Mimi Drew in a press release. “We want the public to have real-time information and data about our efforts.”  Residents are encouraged to contact DEP directly with questions and concerns at 850-488-8217. Citizens who may be concerned about their drinking water supply can contact the Hamilton County Health Department at 386-792-1414.  Copyright © 1999-2010 cnhi, inc.

By Stephenie Livingston, Reporter January 08, 2010 11:25 am, Suwanee Democrat