Water-Related News

Study: phosphate mine expansion will cause 'significant' wetlands damage

By Craig Pittman

Creating three phosphate mines and expanding a fourth will destroy nearly 10,000 acres of wetlands and 50 miles of streams, causing a "significant impact," according to a study prepared to guide permitting by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

But the two-year study —- prepared for the corps by a consultant paid by the phosphate industry — contends the miners would do such a good job of making up for the damage, through a process called mitigation, that the impact will not be all that noticeable.

"Without mitigation, a lot of the effects would be significant — on wetlands, on groundwater, on surface water," said corps senior project manager John Fellows, who works in the Tampa office. "No question about it, mining is an impactive industry."

The report is so vague about just what kind of mitigation would make up for such widespread destruction in Hillsborough, Hardee, Manatee, Polk and De Soto counties that Fellows called it "a hand-wave" at the subject. He said that was all the law required.

Both Mosaic and CF Industries, the two phosphate companies that want federal permits for about 42,000 acres of new and expanded mining, issued statements saying they welcomed the report.