A group of about 40 impassioned citizens decried The Mosaic Company’s operations here and elsewhere in Florida during a protest Saturday afternoon outside the Manatee County Courthouse.
The sign-toting protesters gathered along busy Manatee Avenue as a steady stream of cars passed by with drivers often honking their horns in support. Participants also used megaphones to loudly pronounce their opposition to Mosaic’s phosphate mining operations and threats of environmental pollution.
“What do we want? Clean water, and we want it now,” said one chant. “The clean air we breathe is under attack. What do we do? We fight back. ... Mosaic get off it, this land is not for profit,” implored others.
Protesters are seeking to bolster opposition to Mosaic’s pending request to rezone 3,600 acres to expand its Wingate Creek facility in Duette, which mines and processes phosphate rock, the raw material for phosphate fertilizer production.
The Manatee County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to vote on the request Jan. 26. Protesters also urged Mosaic opponents “to flood the phone lines and in boxes” of commissioners on Jan. 23 in what is being called “Call-in Day.”
Juliana Musheyev, an organizer with ANSWER Suncoast, helped lead the group on Saturday.
“All of this of this is for the profit of corporations,” Musheyev said. “No one in Manatee County is going to benefit from this. It’s greed, and we need to stand up about it.”
She said the impact of phosphate mining threatens the water supply and Florida’s precious ecosystem.
Protesters also passed out brochures to passersby that describe environmentally damaging effects of phosphate mining on water resources in Florida. The brochures include photos of the large sinkhole that developed last year at the New Wales phosphate mine in Polk County that leaked radioactive water.
Musheyev said the protest was intended to bring awareness to an issue that many in the community need to better understand.
“There is a very good reason for this. Mosaic is very community outreach,” Musheyev said. “They cover up their exploitation through community service, but there is no amount of money that can make up for the damage that cannot be undone.”
Organizers with Stand Up Fight Back SRQ and ANSWER Suncoast both sponsored the protest, which was observed by a few nearby Bradenton police officers.
Melissa Simmons, with ANSWER Suncoast, also joined Saturday’s effort. For her, it was all about protecting the ecosystem and water supply.
“It’s really easy to mess up but really hard to fix,” Simmons said. “So we’ve got to get proactive in protecting our ecosystem rather than being reactive in trying to clean up damage.”
The company last year told the Herald that all necessary precautions are being taken in preparation for the expansion.
Bart Arrington, Mosaic’s senior permitting manager for the Wingate mine, said that the permitting process requires the company to restore the land after mining to its natural state.
“The Mosaic team has spent years developing comprehensive and detailed permit applications to ensure the future of the Wingate Mine complies with the required local, state and federal permitting requirements,” he said.