Monday, April 11, 2011

Court Orders Stay on Mosaic Phosphate Mining Permit for 90 Days


US Court of Appeals Stays Mosaic's South Fort Meade Extension Permit For 90 Days

-- Sends Case Back to District Court For Final Ruling --

Atlanta, GA -- On April 8, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit vacated a preliminary injunction on Mosaic’s phosphate mine known as the South Fort Meade extension. The Court of Appeals found a procedural flaw in the injunction that had been entered July 30, 2010 by the U.S. District Court in Jacksonville based on violations of the Clean Water Act. However, the appellate court continued the stay of Mosaic’s permit for another 90 days and sent the matter back to the district court to make a final ruling in that time.

Specifically the appellate court’s three page decision found that the district court should not have remanded the permit to the U.S. Corps of Engineers when it issued its injunction. The appellate court did not rule on the merits of the permit, i.e. it did not decide whether the permit was legal or that it complied with the law.

“We are disappointed that the court of appeals did not affirm the injunction in its entirety,” said Eric Huber, Sierra Club Senior Staff Attorney. “But we are glad that it stayed the permit for another 90 days which
protects the wetlands while we have another hearing in Jacksonville.”

Mosaic’s strip mine would cover 7,687 acres and destroy 534 acres of wetlands, 26 acres of open water and more than 10 miles of streams associated with the headwaters of the Peace River and other streams. Phosphate strip mining entirely removes the land surface down 50 or more feet, destroying wetlands and significantly impacting ground and surface water flow. While surface reclamation occurs in theory, it is substantially delayed, often unsuccessful and does not repair groundwater impacts. This disruption in flows affects water quality and quantity in the watersheds involved, including the Peace River which flows into
the Charlotte Harbor Estuary, a federally recognized “aquatic resource of national importance”.

The parties reached a partial settlement last November allowing mining to proceed at Phase 1 of the mine, comprising some 200 acres. In return, Mosaic agreed to protect 14.3 acres of environmentally desirable and difficult to replace "bayhead wetlands," as well as surrounding uplands, in the upper Peace River watershed, for a total of 40.9 additional acres protected from mining.

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