Judge halts Mosaic mining in Hardee

A federal judge has ordered Mosaic Co. to stop work at a recently permitted mine in Hardee County, citing “likely” damage to the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor if strip mining begins there.

U.S. Middle District of Florida Judge Henry Lee Adams Jr. issued a temporary restraining order Thursday against mining for phosphate ore at the South Fort Meade Extension mine.

Mining the 10,885-acre site could impact 534 acres of wetlands and 10.7 miles of streams that feed the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor watersheds, Adams’ order said. Manatee County is in the Peace River Watershed.

The motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction were made by the environmental groups Sierra Club, People for Protecting Peace River and ManaSota-88. A hearing on the preliminary injunction will be held July 22 in Jacksonville.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved Mosaic’s federal permit for the site June 14.

“Without temporary injunctive relief, Plaintiffs and the environment will suffer irreparable harm,” Adams’ order said.

ManaSota-88 Chairman Glenn Compton said his group is “not surprised, but relieved.”

“We’re pleased to get the temporary restraining order,” Compton said. “Our position is the Army Corps of Engineers should not have granted a permit until an environmental impact study is completed.”

Adams’ order said the plantiffs “demonstrated a substantial likelihood” of success in their claim that the Army Corps of Engineers violated the Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act in granting the permit.

Mosaic spokesman Russell schweiss said the company had begun site preparation at the extension mine, but the start of actual mining was about two weeks away. He said Mosaic is confident it will win at the injunction hearing.

“The South Fort Meade Ex- tension project has under- gone seven years of intense local, state and federal regulatory scrutiny. It is based on strong, documented science and meets or exceeds all legal and envir- onmental requirements,” Schweiss said in a written statement.

Schweiss said Mosaic has promised Hardee County $42 million worth of local in- frastructure and other eco- nomic development initiatives during the next 10 years as part of the South Fort Meade Extension project.

“The unfortunate fact here is the Sierra Club places a higher value on their national anti-mining agenda than on the economic well-being of Hardee County and its citizens, and the livelihoods of the hundreds of families that rely on our South Fort Meade mine,” Schweiss said.