US Mosaic to appeal injunction on Florida mine extension

02 August 2010 14:58  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US fertilizer maker Mosaic plans to hold a news conference on Monday to discuss its intent to appeal a preliminary court injunction aimed at halting a phosphate mine extension in Florida.

Late Friday, the US District Court for the Middle District of Florida issued a preliminary injunction against the Hardee County extension of Mosaic's South Fort Meade phosphate mine in Central Florida, in order to prevent impacts on wetlands.

The ruling could impact Mosaic's workforce, including the layoff of up to 221 employees after the expiration of the 60-day notice period provided under the federal Worker Adjustment Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. 

The preliminary injunction resulted from litigation brought against the Army Corps by environmental group Sierra Club and several other non-governmental organisations. The district court ruling followed a 22 July hearing on the matter in Jacksonville, Florida.

"We're disappointed by the ruling and will immediately seek an expedited appeal of the matter," said Richard Mack, Mosaic executive vice president and general counsel. "We do not believe the decision was supported by the overwhelming facts supporting the Army Corps' decision to issue the South Fort Meade permit. This permit has received a higher level of scrutiny and contains more environmental protections than any prior Florida phosphate mining permit."

The lawsuit brought by Sierra Club, et al, contests the issuance of a federal wetlands permit extension from the US Army Corps of Engineers that would allow Mosaic to extend the mine into adjacent Hardee County.

The Corps specifically had issued a dredge and fill permit, allowing Mosaic to mine for phosphate ore in 7,687 acres (3,113 ha) of wetlands, streams and uplands in Hardee County, Florida.

The court issued a restraining order on 1 July halting the extension. The order said mining the total 10,885-acre site could impact 534 acres of wetlands and 10.7 miles of streams that feed the Peace River and Charlotte Harbour watersheds.

The plaintiffs were seeking to have mining activity at the extension halted until an environmental assessment is completed.

Mosaic asked the court for a preliminary injunction lifting the restraining order.

Mosaic said that without the federal wetlands permit for the Hardee County extension, mining at the South Fort Meade mine could not continue without adverse consequences.

Three of the mine's four draglines have been idled awaiting access to the new reserves in Hardee County, and output from the single remaining dragline could not economically support the operating costs of the mine, Mosaic said.

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By: Frank Zaworski
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