On a recent trip to Israel, I saw intricate multicolored tile mosaics that adorned the floors of ancient Roman buildings and early Christian churches — art that enhanced the earth. I can understand why the Mosaic Phosphate Mining Company would name itself “Mosaic” to conjure the idea of a beautifully decorated floor.
But Mosaic’s activity is not about enhancement of the earth but rather its despoilment. In fact, Mosaic uses huge drag lines to gouge out the “overburden” to extract a matrix mix of sand, clay and phosphate rock to make fertilizer and leave the processed waste as phosphogypsum stacks which are piles of toxic waste covered with vegetation — Florida’s version of the French Alps. Also in the wake of the extraction process, Mosaic leaves enormous clay settlement (slime) ponds almost one square mile — literal dead zones for decades.
Also gone after Mosaic mauls the earth are wetlands, natural habitats, trees, grass and anything green that grows. Though reclamation is required, restoration of the before condition is not and could not be achieved even if required.
Manatee County allows in its Comp Plan phosphate mining as a permitted use under the Agriculture Rural Land Use Category. This is like giving foxes visitation rights to the hen house. In the end, no hens, and in the case of Mosaic mining, the conversion of land intended for sustaining life to land that sustains nothing resembling life — just a vast wasteland. And though the argument for this practice of land abuse is that fertilizer product sustains life elsewhere, the Manatee County Commission on Wednesday,when it considers sacrificing another 3,600 acres of agricultural land to the gaping jaws of the drag line, must ask at what price to the health, safety and welfare of citizens?