News And Updates
Published By: BradentonHerald.com
Phosphate mining giant Mosaic Fertilizer was dealt another setback Friday when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suspended a permit allowing mining at the Altman Tract in northeast Manatee.
Col. Paul Grosskruger, the Corps of Engineers' Jacksonville district commander, wrote in a letter to the company that the Corps had determined it was in the "public interest to revisit the analysis in support" of the permit. Grosskruger ordered Mosaic to immediately suspend all mining projects allowed under the permit.
The agency's decision was another victory for environmental groups that had filed suit against the Corps in July stating the Corps' dredge-and-fill permit issued last year violated the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The suit, which attorneys said will be suspended as long as the permit is suspended, contends the permit "was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and otherwise not in accordance with the law."
"It's clear to me this was done because the federal government decided they couldn't fight our legal challenge," said Frank Jackalone, a regional representative of the Sierra Club. "It made no sense whatsoever, considering that there were enormous risks of wetland destruction and impacts on the Peace River and Horse Creek."
"This is a big victory for the people of Manatee County," said David Guest, director of Florida Earthjustice, which represents the environmental groups opposed to mining operations. "This Corps permit should never have been issued, and today's suspension is recognition it never should have been issued."
Corps representatives declined to comment on the case since it is involved in litigation. Mosaic saw the decision as a minor setback and said the permit will likely be "reactivated" in a few months.
"We acknowledge the Corps' desire to proceed cautiously and deliberately in light of recent permit challenges, and we accept their decision to conduct an additional, objective review of the facts and circumstances regarding Altman," Mosaic spokesman David Townsend said in a news release.
Mosaic wants to mine about 1,400 acres, including 291 acres of wetlands. The company proposed to mine another 107 acres of wetlands if it could prove to county officials that it successfully restored damaged and mined wetlands within five years. If the wetland restoration failed, the company would have forfeited rights to mine an estimated 700,000 tons of phosphate.
Environmental groups, including Sierra Club, ManaSota-88, People for Protecting Peace River and the Gulf Restoration Network, said the Corps' decision was also vindication for the Manatee County commission, which voted last month to deny Mosaic rights to mine the 2,048-acre Altman tract.
Mosaic Co. responded by laying the groundwork for a $617 million lawsuit against the county on grounds the company's property rights were violated.
"It's still very important there be a full environmental impact statement conducted for this project, and there ought to be an area-wide study to review the cumulative impacts of mining of this and other mining projects proposed by Mosaic," Jackalone said.