Manatee County Commission OK's Mosaic's mining plans

skennedy@bradenton.comFebruary 20, 2013 

MANATEE -- Mosaic Fertilizer is poised to mine more of its property at the Wingate Creek Mine after a 5-2 vote Tuesday by the Manatee County Commission.

The commission approved an ordinance amending and restating a development order for the company's approved Development of Regional Impact, and also OK'd an amended master mining plan, officials said.

Among other things, the company will be able to mine its clay settling area, along with other unmined areas on its property, documents said.

Voting in favor were commissioners Carol Whitmore, John Chappie, Betsy Benac, Vanessa Baugh and Commission Chairman Larry Bustle. Voting against were commissioners Robin DiSabatino and Michael Gallen.

The changes affect 557 acres, including stockpile areas, a clay settling area, and 15.4 acres of technically undisturbed -- but hardly pristine -- land, officials said.

The company sought to mine areas on its property formerly set aside for other uses, and is not seeking to mine new lands at this time, officials said.

Its mining opportunities are "limited right now" because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in the midst of an environmental assessment of Central Florida phosphate mining, said Rob Brown, a division manager for the county's Department of Natural Resources.

The Corps is prohibited from issuing any wetland permits until its report is completed, he added.

The situation "kind of forced them to go back into mine areas" that won't require U.S. Army Corps' approval while they're awaiting completion of its report, Brown explained.

"They'll re-mine it just like they're mining virgin land," said Brown, who called the commission's changes an effort to try to "bring an old mine more into compliance" with modern regulation.

Environmentalist and former Planning Commission member Mary Sheppard asked whether the area would be properly monitored, saying, "It's a bad situation" when real enforcement is not there on behalf of the public.

County officials assured her there is plenty of monitoring taking place.

The amendment to the development order will extend by nine years the company's build-out date, or the life of the mine, to 2023. Its land reclamation deadline will be extended nine years to 2027.

The next step the county must consider is whether to grant the company a five-year operating permit, Brown said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.

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