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Sunk in clay

Even the phosphate companies are feeling the loss from their own inability to properly reclaim the land. This piece of equipment fell through the loosely packed byproducts of a former strip-mining site.

Reclamation is the process of returning the land and water to a usable condition once mining has ceased. Because of the complete destruction that takes place during mining activities, the goal of reclamation is to bring the land back to a place that will allow natural processes to begin again.

Reclamation doesn't begin until years after mining operations have stopped. But, for most states, a detailed plan is required before a mining permit will be issued. Before the plan can be written, an environmental impact study must be completed. This typically includes a study of the landscape, such as wetlands or upland areas, wildlife survey—including endangered species.

This reclaimed site called "Peanut" is surrounded by Cogan Grass and water too cloudy to allow sunlight to reach the bottom. Non-Native species have overtaken the site. To control the Cogan grass, Mosaic has to spray herbicide which kills native vegetation, too.

In Florida, reclamation is governed by the Mandatory Mine Reclamation Act of 1975. This law states that mined land must be restored as close as possible to its original state. Reclaimed lands in Florida are typically used for citrus groves or pasture, or may be restored as marshes and forested wetlands. The phosphate industry is responsible for maintaining and monitoring reclamation projects for one to five years, depending on how the sites are used. Government officials inspect reclamation projects to determine the land's potential for reuse.

In reality, there's no way to restore mines to pre-mining state. Even with the best of intentions and a real financial commitment, the damage is rarely undone for years and years. Nature can eventually be restored, but real restoration is measured in geologic time, not in a human lifetime.

It's a risk taken in Florida every single day.

Learn more about the Problems With Reclamation

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