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Counties opposing mine lose ruling
Published May 11, 2005
ONA - A state judge is advising environmental regulators to clear the way for a 4,200-acre phosphate mine at the headwaters of the Peace River in Hardee County.
The Mosaic Co. proposal, which would push mining closer to Charlotte Harbor than ever before, was opposed by Charlotte, Lee and Sarasota counties. They fear a cut in the drinking water supply and damage to tourism, commercial fishing and wildlife nurseries in the estuary.
Administrative Law Judge Robert Meale acknowledged widespread environmental damage from mining in his findings Monday but expressed confidence in Mosaic's ability to fix it afterward. The company ultimately wants to mine 20,000 acres.
The judge's findings can be accepted, rejected or modified by state Environmental Protection Secretary Colleen Castille. Mining opponents challenged the proposal because they don't think state regulators are enforcing environmental rules to protect natural resources.
Charlotte County, which gets 90 percent of its drinking water from the river, has spent more than $8-million fighting the mine, and Lee and Sarasota counties added $2-million.
"I don't see our operation having an effect on the quality of water in Charlotte Harbor," said Gray Gordon, a Mosaic vice president.
It is the third mining tract to be challenged in recent years. One 2,800-acre Manatee County project went forward but another 2,300-acre plan was rejected.