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Phosphate processing plants in the greater Tampa Bay region have caused some of Florida's worst environmental disasters. Accidents like the spill at the former Piney Point plant fill the history books in Florida.

DeSoto County residents are unanimous in their opposition to a proposed Mosaic phosphate mine

Photo of the public meeting in Arcadia
Steve Newborn
WUSF Public Media
The public meeting on the proposed mine was held in Arcadia, the county seat of DeSoto

About two dozen people spoke out Tuesday against Mosaic's plan to mine phosphate in DeSoto County. No one told county commissioners they support the mine, proposed 90 minutes southeast of Tampa.

In 2018, DeSoto County commissioners voted down a plan by the phosphate giant Mosaic to rezone 18,000 acres of land for a new mine. But now Mosaic wants to bring the issue back for a vote, as early as 2023.

Andy Melee, of Punta Gorda, is an environmental scientist. He told the commissioners mine spills would eventually damage Horse Creek and the Peace River downstream, which supplies drinking water to hundreds of thousands of people.

Tim Ritchie of March Against Mosaic holds up placards
Steve Newborn
Tim Ritchie of March Against Mosaic plans his presentation to DeSoto Commissioners

"I don't know why we're even here," he told county commissioners. "This commission refused Mosaic's rezone request in 2018, and nothing has changed. We should end this farce of propaganda workshops and shut down the process today. Stand by your decision. It was the right one."

The public meeting was held to get information from Mosaic about their plans for eight CSAs — clay settling areas that are used to hold polluted water from mining.

Captain Paul DeGaeta charters fishing boats in Punta Gorda, and can remember fish kills in the Peace River and downstream Charlotte Harbor after devastating mine spills.

"I lived on the river, and saw the destructive power of phosphate spills of 1967 and 1971," he said, "each caused by single CSA breaches."

While no state environmental officials were at the meeting, DeSoto commissioners say they plan on inviting them to the next informational meeting, likely in January.

The proposed mine would take over much of the northwest corner of DeSoto, which bumps up against Manatee County's southeast corner.

Map of the proposed DeSoto County mine
Kara Clauser/Center for Biological Diversity
Map of the proposed DeSoto County mine

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