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DeSoto County Votes To Ban Phosphate Gypsum Stacks

Welcome to DeSoto County sign
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A sign welcomes motorists to DeSoto County

The Mosaic Company has asked to open a new phosphate mine in DeSoto County's northwest corner, but says it has no plans to create a gypsum stack there.

DeSoto County took the first step Tuesday night to ban one of the most toxic byproducts of phosphate mining from being built there.

County commissioners unanimously moved to ban gypsum stacks. The move comes as the Mosaic Company wants to rezone land to allow phosphate mining in the county's northwest corner, near Hardee and Manatee counties.

Commissioner J.C. DeRiso talked about the ban — and past spills at mines that have devastated wildlife — during a conference call Tuesday with state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

"As time goes on and we become more educated, we learn mistakes from things that have been done in the past, and if we're smart leaders, we can avoid doing those things again," he said.

A second hearing and final vote is expected in a few weeks.

"There's a lot of talk about different uses for that gypsum, other than stacking it up where it could turn into a nightmare down the road," DeRiso said.

The Mosaic Company has asked to open a new mine in DeSoto, but says it has no plans to create a gypsum stack there.

Map of the planned DeSoto County mine.
Kara Clauser/Center For Biological Diversity
Map of the planned DeSoto County mine.

In 2018, DeSoto County commissioners voted against rezoning 14,000 acres of ranchlands and groves in the county's northwest corner for mining.

But the company pressed back. The nation's largest phosphate producer went to court, and shortly after that vote, county commissioners agreed to an arbitration mediator and let Mosaic have another vote as early as 2023.

Until then, the company is holding a series of public workshops on various parts of their mining plan.

The next, on Nov. 2, will be in Arcadia's Turner Center. It will focus on the company's plans to dig eight clay settling areas, to handle byproducts of mining. Opponents fear this could impact Horse Creek, which flows into the Peace River, an important source of drinking water for several counties.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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