MANATEE -- A plan to extend a phosphate mine over 661 acres of East Manatee won preliminary approval Thursday from the Manatee County Planning Commission.
Commission members heard a presentation from the applicant, Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC, and from a few opponents, before voting unanimously in favor of two resolutions that would allow extension of the Wingate Creek Mine, west of Duette Road and north of State Road 64.
Speaking in favor of the plan was Bartley E. Arrington, Mosaic’s manager of mine permitting, who said that about 598 acres would be mined, and about 50 acres of wetlands and surface water areas would be disturbed -- but replaced -- once mining is finished.
Although Mosaic officials said the extension of the mine would pose no problem for nearby residents from noise, light, air pollution and other byproducts of the industrial process, a neighbor who lives in a subdivision more than a mile away said he frequently experiences too much noise and light already.
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“You can sit on my front porch and listen to that mine operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year,” said John R. Henslick, a senior scientist for ECo Consultants Inc., of Sarasota.
“People stop the conversation and ask: ‘What is that noise?’” said Henslick.
Henslick complimented the company on the job it does, and said he didn’t mind the mine. But he added he thought there were steps it could take to improve or lessen the impact on its neighbors.
Others also objected to Mosaic’s request.
Linda Jones wondered if the company was on schedule for other reclamation projects it has in the works. A county staffer said it was on schedule at all of its Manatee County sites.
Sandra Ripberger said she was “very concerned” about the 50 acres of wetland the project would displace, adding, “Mosaic has not shown it can re-create wetlands to function as well as they did originally.”
She also wondered whether the mine would degrade the Myakka River, noting that parts of it in Sarasota have been named by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as “Outstanding Florida Waters,” providing special protection due to its natural attributes. The Florida Legislature also designated a 34-mile Sarasota portion a “Florida Wild and Scenic River.”
However, the river’s north end in Manatee County carries neither designation, according to Charlie Hunsicker, county director of natural resources. The river arises at the Flatford Swamp, north of Myakka City, and flows southwest through eastern Manatee, then via Sarasota and Charlotte counties to the Gulf of Mexico, he said.
Mosaic, among the world’s leading makers of phosphate and potash crop nutrients, is seeking a master plan authorizing mining and reclamation; a waiver of the setback requirement for mining adjacent to the county’s Duette Preserve; and approval of a build-out date for mining of Dec. 31, 2019, and reclamation until Dec. 31, 2023.
The company also has requested a rezoning of 645.9 acres from General Agriculture to the Extraction zoning district, according to county records.
The Manatee County Commission is slated to make the final decision at 9 a.m., Feb. 2 at the County Administrative Center, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.