BRADENTON – Fertilizer giant Mosaic
lost another round in the battle to expand mining at its South Fort Meade location, southeast of Tampa. Last August, the Sierra Club
successfully sued to prevent an expansion on wetland properties that had been approved by the Army Corps of Engineers in what was exposed in the suit as a deeply-flawed permitting process
Mosaic then informed the court that it would begin a different expansion in “upland” parts of the company's land in that area, which do not require federal permitting. The Sierra Club again filed suit, seeking an injunction and on Friday were granted a preliminary injunction in federal court. Mosaic plans to appeal the decision and has said in a statement that they are both “surprised and disappointed,” since the upland mining operations do not require a federal clean water permit.
However, the court ruled that since those lands were included in the USACE
environmental impact study that was found to be deeply flawed by the court, the expansion was nonetheless covered by the original decision. Phosphate mining has been under increased scrutiny as the state continues to pay for environmental disasters at former mine sites, like the recent spill following a collapsed liner at Piney Point, in the northern part of Manatee County.
Critics contend that phosphate is a labor-unintensive industry that destroys natural resources and uses exorbitant amounts of water, while providing few jobs (about one employee per 250 acres). They argue that the popular fertilizer ingredient is an unnecessary and unsustainable component to modern agriculture and that nitrogen-rich phosphate runoff is a contributor to algal blooms like those that cause red tide.