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Two types of mining occur in Manatee County: Phosphate and Borrow Pit mining. 

Borrow pits are regulated locally in accordance with Section 732 of the Land Development Code. In addition to permits from the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, they must obtain approval of a Manatee County Special Permit and Operating Permit in order to operate. Typically in Manatee County, borrow pits are mined for sand and topsoil material. Sand and shell from borrow pits have a variety of uses, but are most commonly used to contour construction sites, house pads and road bases. There are currently two active permitted borrow pit mines in Manatee County. 

Manatee County also locally regulates phosphate mining operations. There are currently over 17,000 acres of land approved for phosphate mining in Manatee County. Phosphate rock is used to make fertilizer. Only one company is actively mining phosphate in Manatee County - Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC.

Mining FAQs

  • What type of mining occurs in Manatee County?

    Phosphate and borrow pit mining.

  • What companies do the phosphate mining in Manatee County?

    Only one company in Manatee County - Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC.

  • Where are the phosphate mining properties?

    Refer to Mosaic Inc. Property Ownership Map under the Phosphate Mining Overview tab.

  • The phosphate minerals are severed from land I am considering buying. What should I do?

    We recommend strongly that you obtain a real estate attorney possessing knowledge in mineral issues. Purchasing land without minerals may result in serious problems.

  • Once mining is completed how do the companies leave the land?

    Reclamation of disturbed lands has been mandatory since 1975. The mining company must return the lands to beneficial uses in accordance with their Development Orders and Master Mining Plans.

  • How are the mining companies (borrow pits & phosphate mines) regulated?

    Borrow Pits are regulated locally in accordance with Section 732 of the LDC. In addition, they must obtain approval of a Special Permit and Operating Permit. Phosphate companies are regulated in Manatee County by Ordinance 04-39, “The Manatee County Phosphate Mining Code.” Prior to mining, they must receive approval of a Development Order, Rezone, and Master Mining Plan & Operating Permit

Phosphate Mining Overview

Phosphate mining has occurred in the state of Florida since the late 1800s. This site provides a short summary of the phosphate industry in Manatee County

Why mine phosphate in Manatee County?

Millions of years ago, when the ocean flooded Florida, a layer of sand and clay rich in tiny phosphate particles was deposited. This large deposit of phosphate rock became known as the Bone Valley due to the amount of fossils found among the rock. A portion of the Bone Valley lies in Manatee County. There are only few areas of phosphate deposits in the United States. In fact, central Florida is estimated to contain 80 percent of the United States’ phosphate deposits.

Phosphate is a limited resource. It cannot be replaced. As land is farmed the soils become nutrient deficient and must be replenished in order to produce. Therefore, most of phosphate mined (90%) is used to make fertilizer; the remainder is used to make animal feed supplements, and additives in such products as toothpaste and soft drinks.

Phosphate and overlying deposits are rich in fossils. These fossils are from the Pleistocene, Pliocene, Miocene and Oligocene time periods (2 - 35 million years ago) and contain many large land vertebrates and shallow sea creatures. Specimens may be viewed at the Mulberry Phosphate Museum in central Florida.

Where is phosphate mining occurring in Manatee County?

Refer to Mosaic Fertilizer, Inc. Property Ownership Map (link to map).

Mining Techniques

The phosphate deposits occur anywhere between 30 and 50 feet below the ground surface. Due to the relative shallow depths of the deposits and the structure of the layer above it (i.e., mostly unconsolidated sand and clay), the phosphate matrix consisting of phosphate rock, sand and clay, is extracted through a process known as strip mining. The layers above the phosphate matrix (overburden) are removed by large earthmoving machines known as draglines and placed to the side. The phosphate matrix is then extracted and placed in slurry of water to transport to the beneficiation plant via a network of pipes. Finally, sand that has been removed by the beneficiation plant and the overburden are returned to the voids created by the mining process. Clays are placed in settling facilities known as clay settling areas. 

Another method utilized in Manatee County is referred to as dredging. This excavation method is carried out mostly underwater using a cutter-suction dredge. This method uses both an overburden dredge and a matrix dredge to uncover and extract the phosphate matrix.

Beneficiation

Beneficiation means separating a wanted mineral from other material that is also contained in the matrix. In the case of phosphate, this means separating clay and sand from the phosphate rock. A mechanical process called washing and screening is used to separate the larger phosphate pebbles from the ore. A process called flotation is used to recover the finer particles of phosphate from the sand. The sand is pumped back to the mine cuts for reclamation. The clay is pumped to clay settling ponds for long-term storage.

Mining Rules & Regulations

Phosphate mining is extensively regulated at the federal, state and local levels. Applications of Conceptual Mine Plans and Reclamation Plans and NPDES applications are reviewed and processed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Mining and Mineral Regulations. Dredge and Fill applications are submitted to the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council reviews the Development of Regional Impact (DRI). Consumptive uses of water, construction and regulation of wells, and management and storage of surface waters are regulated by the Water Management District.

Manatee County’s general authority to regulate phosphate mining is set forth in Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 of the Comprehensive Plan.  Prior to mining, an applicant must receive approval of a Development Order, Rezone, and Master Mining Plan & Operating Permit. Public Hearings are conducted for all major mining approvals.
 
Phosphate Mining Ordinance (Ordinance No. 81-22), effective October 1981, laid the procedure for permitting phosphate mining in Manatee County. It includes financial responsibility requirements, master mining plan application submittal requirements, operating permit application submittal criteria, reporting requirements, standards for radiation, and criteria for mining activities, among other items. The provisions of Ordinance No. 81-22 are restated in the new Phosphate Mining Code and are still enforced today on all mines active prior to July 1, 2004, or for which applications were filed by that date.
 
Phosphate Mining Code (Ordinance No. 04-39), adopted November 2, 2004, reflects advances in knowledge and technology related to mining and reclamation and is designed to provide protection of adjacent property from adverse impacts, protection of water quality and protection of water quantity during and after mining. Changes include additional financial responsibilities of the mining company, administrative enforcement procedures, cumulative impacts assessments, and reclamation success criteria as further detailed in Manatee County’s Phosphate Mining Reclamation Manual (Appendix E of Ordinance No. 04-39).
 
Master Mining Plan – A Board of County Commissioners approved plan, through an adopted resolution, that provides a description of pre-mining, mining and post mining and reclamation activities over the life of a mine.  
 
Operating Permit – The written authorization, granted by the Board of County Commissioners through an adopted resolution, for an applicant to proceed with specified phosphate mining activities, in accordance with the Master Mining Plan, for a specified period of time.

Reclamation

Since July 1, 1975, the phosphate industry has been required to reclaim all mined lands according to Florida law. The mining company must return the lands to beneficial uses in accordance with their permit approvals.

As set forth is in Chapter 378, Florida Statutes (F.S.), the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Mining and Mineral Regulations, administers the Mandatory Phosphate Mine Reclamation Code, Chapter 62C-16, Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.). Mandatory Phosphate Reclamation Code requires that wetlands and natural surface waters that are disturbed by phosphate mining site preparation or phosphate mining operations be restored at least acre-for-acre and type-for-type. The Bureau of Mining and Mineral Regulations has developed the Integrated Habitat Network (IHN) plan as a focus for the reclamation and permitting efforts for phosphate mining in Central Florida. The IHN provides for the preservation of natural communities adjacent to major river systems and their tributaries and construction of wildlife corridors to be associated with these communities, thereby affording wildlife and native seed sources the ability to access reclaimed lands.
 
Manatee County’s Phosphate Mining Reclamation Manual (Ordinance 04-39, Appendix E) is designed to protect the surrounding environment and ensure reclamation of the area of land affected by mining. This manual defines the types of mined/disturbed lands to be reclaimed, establishes performance standards for reclaiming land and establishes release criteria for post-reclamation for uplands as well as wetland community types.

Useful Links

Additional Phosphate Mining Information

This page provides additional topics of interest concerning phosphate mining as it relates to Manatee County’s citizens and environment.

Radiation

Uranium – A naturally occurring element found in numerous minerals, including phosphate rock. Although neither the mining nor processing of phosphate involves the addition of any radioactive substances, the digging up and turning over of soil to find and remove phosphate can increase radioactivity near the surface by bringing material containing uranium decay products once 30 feet underground to the surface. Therefore, Manatee County will not release reclaimed land without it meeting radiation standards set forth in the Phosphate Mining Code (Ordinance No. 04-39).

Radon - An odorless, colorless and tasteless, naturally occurring radioactive gas.

Clay Settling Areas (includes dam safety)

The area lying between earthen dams or within excavated areas, which is used primarily for impounding clays or other wastes, sometimes also referred to as a “slime pond” or an “initial” or “waste-clay” settling area. Clays are removed from the phosphate matrix during the beneficiation process. Clays present a disposal problem due to their size and rates, and they trap and retain large amounts of water and take long periods of time to dry. Accordingly, clays are placed in clay settling areas.

Dams surrounding clay settling areas should be engineered in keeping with best available technology, inspected frequently, carefully constructed and well maintained. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, under its Administrative Rules, Chapter 62-672, Florida Administrative Code, requires operational and annual inspections of all earthen dams used in phosphate mining operations for the impoundment of liquid industrial wastes. The regulation requires that an independent, Florida-registered professional engineer perform the inspections.

Groundwater Utilization

Water is used to pump the slurry of matrix through the beneficiation process, sand to mine cuts, and clays to the clay settling area. Mine water balances and phosphate industry water use permitted withdraws are carefully reviewed for impacts on the aquifer. Water consumption and the construction and regulation of wells are regulated by the Water Management District. Monthly groundwater use and water level reports are submitted for agency review.

Conservation of water is encouraged as recycling of water in the phosphate mining industry is a common practice.

Listed Species and Their Habitats

Before mining begins, permits required by federal, state and local authorities must be in place which address wildlife under the regulatory authority of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wildlife Habitat Management Plans are developed to avoid, minimize, and mitigate adverse impacts to state and federally listed wildlife species. Wildlife Habitat Management Plans usually include such species as the Florida scrub jay, gopher tortoise, southern bald eagle, eastern indigo snake, and Florida burrowing owl.

Transportation

Phosphate rock is loaded into covered trucks or railroad cars and transported to the customer or to a fertilizer chemical plant.

Phosphate Fertilizer Manufacturing Plant

A phosphate fertilizer manufacturing plant is also referred to as an Acid Plant. At the manufacturing plant the phosphate rock is reacted with sulfuric acid to create the phosphoric acid needed to make fertilizer and produces a by-product of phosphogypsum. The phosphoric acid is reacted with ammonia to create diammonium phosphate (commonly referred to as DAP). The DAP fertilizer is water-soluble and will be available for the plants to take up through their roots. There are no phosphate fertilizer manufacturing plants in operation in Manatee County.

Phosphogypsum Management (link to FDEP)

Gypsum is a naturally occurring, finely grained solid consisting primarily of calcium sulfate. It is also chemically produced as a by-product when making phosphate fertilizer and is known as phosphogypsum. Phosphogypsum and process water are pumped through pipelines to a storage area where the gypsum settles out and the water is recycled to the manufacturing plant. The stored pile of gypsum is called a gypsum stack. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection regulate the design, construction, operation and maintenance of phosphogypsum stacks.

Piney Point was the only phosphate chemical plant in Manatee County. No longer in operation, the plant and phosphogypsum stack is currently being reclaimed under the supervision of Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Financial Responsibility/Severance Taxes

Severance tax is placed on phosphate production in the State of Florida to ensure safety of mining operations and completion of reclamation. Severance tax dollars are divided among the state’s General Revenue Fund, Nonmandatory Land Reclamation Trust Fund, Minerals Trust Fund, county governments with phosphate mining, and the Florida Institute of Phosphate Research.

In addition, Manatee County requires the following financial assurances be provided: liability insurance policies, general surety bond, and reclamation/wetland mitigation bond. These are held to ensure that the terms, criteria, standards or requirements of the Master Mining Plan and Operating Permit are upheld by the mining company.

Reclamation Statistics

Annual rate of reclamation reports are provided by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Mining and Mineral Regulations. In addition, Annual Progress Reports are received from the mines providing the status of reclamation and the reclamation liability.

Research on wetland and upland reclamation continues to be conducted in order to define and modify reclamation techniques. Reclamation techniques focus on restoring wildlife habitat, hydrology, wetlands, and water resources. For further information on reclamation studies, visit the Florida Institute of Phosphate Research. 

Borrow Pit Permitting Information

borrow

Borrow Pit mines require a Major Earthmoving Permit. The permit application requirements are explained in the following section.

Pre-Application Information/Materials for Major Earthmoving Operating Permit

Major Earthmoving – All earthmoving operations which involve excavation and/or filling of over one thousand cubic yards of material or more than a ten acre excavation/filling operation in accordance with Section 702 of the Land Development Code. 

The Operating Permit is approved administratively by the Natural Resources Department (NRD) Director. Following the approval of an Earthmoving Site Plan/Special Permit, the applicant has one year to submit an application for an Operating Permit.
 
Prior to approving the Operating Permit, the following approvals, criteria or requirements will need to be provided to the Natural Resources Department for review:
  • Earthmoving, construction and reclamation site plans
  • Financial Assurances (Surety Bond and Agreement) for wetlands mitigation, pit reclamation and road maintenance (requires Board of County Commissioners approval)
  • Best Possible Technology Determination if operating in a Watershed Protection Overlay District (requires Board of County Commissioners approval)
  • Water levels and quality monitoring program plan (pre-mining and during mining)
  • “Concurrency” Certificate of Level of Service Compliance
  • Transportation Analysis
  • Roadway Impacts
  • Radium 226 testing
  • Program to control fugitive dust
  • Well Management Plan
  • Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Mine Reclamation, Notice of Compliance with 62C-39, F.A.C.*
  • Florida Department of Environmental Protection Environmental Resource Permit – required if processing/sorting is involved 
  • Manatee County Special Permit
  • Southwest Florida Water Management District Water Use Permit
  • Southwest Florida Water Management District Environmental Resource Permit
  • Temporary Wetland and Buffer Preservation Conservation Easement (if applicable)
  • Wetland Mitigation/Compensation Proposal
  • National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit
  • Access and Drainage Permit– county roads
  • Florida Department of Transportation State Highway Access Connection Permit
*Notice agreeing to reclaim to Florida Department of Environmental Protection standards defined in the Non-phosphate Reclamation Program.
 
Operating Permit Fee - $3,167 plus $1.00 for each acre over 100
Annual Progress Report - $1500
 
Additional questions about Operating Permits: Contact Rob Brown or Alissa Powers at (941) 742-5980, ext. 1870 or 1892.