In 2001, Mosaic (then IMC Phosphates) phosphate company applied for a permit to mine 20,000 acres (about 32 square miles) of land near the tiny town of Ona in Hardee County. This area would include a large portion of the Horse Creek, which provides 15 percent of the freshwater flow into the Peace River.
In January of 2003, the DEP announced that it would issue the permit.
Charlotte, Lee and Sarasota Counties along with the Peace River Manasota Water Supply Authority, and environmental groups immediately challenged the permit. They were supported by thousands of citizens throughout Florida.
The challengers argued that the impacts of strip mining were not fully understood. Without a study of the Peace River watershed, continued strip mining risks the region's natural resources and economy. They were concerned that strip mining would reduce water flows and impact drinking water supplies.
In May of 2005, after eight weeks of hearings, the judge recommended the approval of a mine less than 4,000 acres. This approval was also based on strict conditions.
However, DEP removed several of the conditions and sent (remanded) the order back to the judge. Once again, the judge refused to allow the mining without assurance that money was being set aside to properly restore the property to pre-mining condition.
In May of 2007, the judge sent the permit back to DEP to re-review it in light of new information from FDEP's latest report: the Peace River Cumulative Impact Study (PRCIS). This important new evidence was a joint project between DEP and the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Its basic purpose was to study the impacts of mining, agriculture, and development over the last century.
The study compared current conditions of wetlands, streams and rivers with conditions from the 1940's to the 1990's. The conclusion was that phosphate, along with urban development and agriculture, had an huge effect on water flow and quality in the Peace River. The study noted that while phosphate mining is 10 percent of the land use, it accounts for 30 percent of the impact.
Now, in light of its own study, DEP can consider whether the latest strip mining permit serves the highest public interest. We are still waiting for a decision.
On Friday May 11, 2007 the National Sierra Club filed a petition to intervene in the proceedings, becoming the fifth group to legally challenge the permit.
|January 2003||DEP issues a permit to IMC Phosphate to mine 20,000 acres in the town of Ona, Florida. Charlotte County and other groups in southwest Florida immediately challenge the permit.|
|May 2005||Judge Robert Meale hears the case and recommends 24 conditions that should be met before the permit is issued.|
|August 2005||The DEP remands the permit back to the judge with many of the conditions removed. Another hearing is scheduled. Click here to see the remand document.|
|June 2006||Judge Meale recommends against strip mining unless conditions are put back into the permit. You can view his Final Order here.|
|July 2006||DEP Secretary Colleen M. Castille issues the permit with all but one of the conditions.|
|January 2007||Groups appeal the permit. The case is sent to the Second District Court of Appeals.|
|May 2007||Second District Court of Appeals sends the permit back to the DEP to consider new evidence from the Peace River Cumulative Impact Study. 3.B.Ona 6/15/07 Final Order-5|
|June 2007||DEP announces that it will not consider the Peace River Cumulative Impact Study arguing that the $700,000 study is somehow irrelevant to the Ona Permit. You can view the Final Order here.|