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Fuller's Earth Mines

The Mining and Mitigation Program is responsible for the administration of reclamation and wetland resource permitting programs, as authorized by Part II of Chapter 211, Part IV of Chapter 373, and Parts II & III of Chapter 378, Florida Statutes, and set forth in Title 62, Florida Administrative Code. These rules address the reclamation and wetland resource permitting on lands disturbed by the extraction of mineral resources, such as phosphate, limestone, dolomite, shell, heavy minerals, fullerís earth, peat, clay, gravel, and sand, and the direct participation of other agencies in the regulatory process.

What is fullers earth?

Fuller's earth has been used for its absorbent properties since ancient times. It was used by "fullers" to "full" (remove) grease and fat from woolen cloth. Fuller's earth is a general term that can be applied to many types of clay that have an exceptional ability to absorb coloring materials from oils of animal, vegetable, and mineral origin. In Florida, the term is narrowly limited. Section 378.403(6), Florida Statutes, defines fuller's earth as clay possessing a high absorptive capacity consisting largely of montmorillonite or palygorskite. Fuller's earth clay includes attapulgite.

Where are the fuller's earth mines in Florida?

The first discovery in the U.S. of fullerís earth was made in 1893 near Quincy, Florida. Mining began in Gadsden County in 1895. This ore deposit extends from Gadsden County, Florida, into Decatur and Grady Counties, Georgia. One fullerís earth mine is located in Marion County. The mine boundaries can be seen through Map Direct.

How is fuller's earth mined in Florida?

Fuller's earth occurs as a clay stratum. Over this stratum is a sand and clay overburden lacking marketable material. At some locations, there may be a second, deeper fuller's earth stratum. The two fuller's earth strata are separated by overburden.

Prior to mining the trees are harvested by normal silvicultural practices. Topsoil is removed and stockpiled along the edge of the mine for later use in reclamation. The overburden is removed by dragline, bulldozer, or pan scrapers and stocked piled for use in reclamation. The topsoil and overburden piles are also used to contain sediment and stormwater within the project limits. The fuller's earth is removed by dragline and loaded onto trucks for transport to the processing plant. The mined out areas are then backed filled with overburden, recontoured, covered with topsoil, and revegetated to meet reclamation standards.

What are the reclamation standards for fullerís earth mines?

The Florida Legislature mandated reclamation of those lands mined for fullerís earth after July 1, 1975. Mine operators are require to provide the Department with a conceptual reclamation plan. Part of our extensive evaluations in reclamation design includes analysis of water quantity impacts, consideration of best available technology, and focusing on preservation of wildlife habitat and resources.

Reclamation means the reasonable rehabilitation of land where resource extraction has occurred. Areas disturbed by mining operations, and subject to the reclamation requirements, must be reclaimed after mining is complete. Debris, litter, junk, worn-out or unusable equipment or materials must be appropriately disposed. The land must be recontoured and stabilized to control erosion. Bare areas must be revegetated. Reclamation standards for fullerís earth mines are detailed in Part III of Chapter 378, Florida Statutes, and Chapter 62C-38, Florida Administrative Code. The forms used for the reclamation program and filing instructions may be obtained online.

What permits are required for fullerís earth mines?

There is no comprehensive permit that covers all aspects of large developments, including mines. To start a large development project the applicant may have to consider the requirements of several regulatory agencies. Each agency may only regulate the specific activities based on authority granted by the congress, the legislature or county commission. To start construction the applicant must have all necessary federal, state, and local approvals. The Mining and Mitigation Program reviews applications for Environmental Resource Permits (ERP), and Wetland Resource Permits.

Fullerís earth mines that were not included in a conceptual reclamation plan or modification application prior to July 1, 1996, are required to have an Environmental Resource Permit. This permit governs the construction, alteration, operation, maintenance, repair, abandonment, and removal of stormwater management systems, dams, impoundments, reservoirs, appurtenant works, and works including docks, piers, structures, dredging, and filling located in, on or over wetlands or other surface waters. The regulatory rules used to implement the ERP are authorized under Chapter 373, Florida Statutes Chapter 403, Florida Statutes, is used to govern activities which may pollute Florida's ground and surface waters, including wetlands. The ERP rules and Applicantís Handbook Volumes I and II, provide explanations, procedures, guidance, standards, and criteria on what is regulated, the types of permits available, how to submit an application or notice for a regulated activity, how applications and notices are reviewed, the standards and criteria for issuance, and permit duration and modification. The forms used for the ERP program and filing instructions may be obtained online.

Fullerís earth mines that were included in a conceptual reclamation plan or modification application prior to July 1, 1996, may be required to have a Wetland Resource Permit (WRP). This permit is based on statutes and rules in effect on January 1, 1993.  This permit is required for any dredging, filling, or construction in, on, or over waters and wetlands that are connected, either naturally or artificially, to "named waters." Named waters include the Gulf of Mexico, bays, bayous, sounds, estuaries, lagoons, rivers, streams, and natural lakes that are not wholly owned by one person other than the State. Filing instructions for the WRP may be obtained online.

In the area of the Northwest Florida Water Management District only, a mine may not need an ERP. A mine or borrow pit operator may continue to extract material from a pit that was existing prior to October 1, 2007, provided they do not encroach beyond the limits of land that has been prepared for excavation prior to October 1, 2007. Land prepared for excavation includes those lands intended for immediate excavation and may involve preparation such as land clearing, root raking, removal of top soil, etc. A pit existing prior to October 1, 2007 that has no additional land prepared for excavation, may also continue to extract material in the vertical direction within the footprint of the existing disturbed area. Any new mines or borrow pits, or expansion of existing mines or borrow pits that necessitates additional preparation of land for excavation that occurs after October 1, 2007, must obtain an ERP permit prior to initiating construction or land clearing activities.

How does the Department monitor activities at fullerís earth mines?

Each operator provides the Department with an Annual Mining and Reclamation Report describing activities for the previous calendar year and proposed mining and reclamation activities for the current year. Routine compliance inspections are conducted to ensure that mining and reclamation activities are in compliance with permit and reclamation rules.

How can you obtain public records?

You can obtain a list of applications for permits and conceptual reclamation plans that are currently under review within the Department. This will provide the application number which can be used when requesting public records.

The Department of Environmental Protection maintains public records in an electronic document management system. You can obtain public records relating to permit applications, conceptual reclamation plans, reports, and inspections through either of these two websites:

You may also request public records by contacting the Mining and Mitigation Program at the mail address, e-mail address, or telephone number shown below.

Mining, Mitigation and Delineation Home
Bob Martinez Center, 2600 Blair Stone Road, MS 3577, Tallahassee, FL 32399-2400 Phone (850) 245-7554

Last updated: November 17, 2016

  2600 Blair Stone Road M.S. 3500   Tallahassee, Florida 32399   850-245-8336 (phone) / 850-245-8356 (fax) 
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