The opposition to phospshate mining continued Wednesday when four conservation organizations banned together to sue two government agencies for authorizing more acres to be mined.
Center for Biological Diversity, People for Protecting Peace River, ManaSota-88 and Suncoast Waterkeeper filed the suit in the U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida Tampa Division on Wednesday against U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for “authorizing 50,000 acres of phosphate strip mining that would irreversibly destroy native plant and animal habitat in central Florida,” a news release states.
“When deciding whether to approve phosphate mining activities in jurisdictional waterways, Congress and the public trust demand that the Corps and Service meaningfully comply with the law by observing statutory and regulatory conditions and rigorously analyzing environmental impacts,” the complaint reads. “These efforts are not only legally mandatory but are also indispensable to protecting Florida’s dwindling natural heritage and environment. Yet the Corps and Service have failed to fulfill these key directives in approving strip-mining for phosphate across more than 7,000 acres in the Peace River watershed.”
The suit comes exactly one month after Manatee County Commission approved Mosaic Company’s request to expand phosphate mining operations in Manatee County. Commissioners approved the rezone of 3,596 acres of Mosaic’s Wingate East property for mining as well as the Master Mining Plan on Feb. 15.
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“Florida has already lost so much to the phosphate industry — hundreds of thousands of acres of natural landscape and habitat, unadulterated freshwater and healthy biodiversity,” Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in the release. “This newest proposal is the most foolhardy yet, calling for the utter destruction of an additional 50,000 acres of Florida habitat and creation of millions of tons of radioactive hazardous waste that will be stored in the state.”
The Wingate East mine is one of the mines mentioned in the complaint, which cites violations of the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act by the two agencies.
“The phosphate industry is creating an economic and environmental burden for the taxpayers of Florida in the form of increased air pollution, destruction of rural communities, depletion and degradation of drinking water supplies, and increased health costs,” Glenn Compton, executive director of ManaSota-88, said in the release. “There is a clear case against expanding phosphate mining in Florida.”