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Mandatory Nonphosphate - Heavy Mineral Mines


The Mining and Minerals Regulation Program administers the laws and regulations related to the reclamation of mined land and the protection of water resources (water quality, water quantity and wetlands) at heavy mineral mines.

What are heavy minerals?

Subsection 378.403(7), Florida Statutes, defines heavy minerals as those resources found in conjunction with sand deposits which have a specific gravity of not less than 2.8, and includes an admixture of such resources as zircon, staurolite, and titanium minerals as generally mined in this state. Heavy mineral mining began in Florida in 1916. A variety of minerals are found in the heavy mineral sand deposits. These include the titanium minerals of ilmenite, leucoxene and rutile. Ilmenite and rutile are primary source materials used to manufacture titanium dioxide pigments. These pigments are often used in the manufacture of paint, varnish and lacquers, plastics, and paper. Another heavy mineral, zircon, has been marketed to the ceramics industry.

Who is mining heavy minerals in Florida?

  • E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, Inc.
    Florida Plant
    Post Office Box 753
    Starke, Florida 32091

Where are the heavy mineral mines in Florida?

Heavy minerals have been found and mined in several locations in Florida. At this time, the industry is mining only in Bradford, Clay, and Putnam Counties, and small areas in Baker and Duval Counties.

How are heavy minerals mined in Florida?

Prior to mining the trees are harvested by normal silvicultural practices. One foot of topsoil is removed and stockpiled along the edge of the mine for later use in reclamation. The topsoil storage piles are also used to contain sediment and stormwater within the project limits.

The heavy minerals occur as sand grains mixed in with lighter clays and quartz sand grains. Within the ore body, less than 5 percent of the grains may be heavy minerals. Above the ore body is the overburden of clays and quartz sand without marketable product. Two mining methods are used: suction dredging and auxiliary mining.

  • In the suction dredging method, an electrically powered suction dredge floats within a 15- to 20-acre man-made pond. At one end of the pond, the dredge draws in overburden, ore and water and transfers the mixture to a floating wet mill. Vibrating screens block out roots and other large objects. Spiral centrifuges are then used to concentrate and separate the heavy mineral sands from the lighter clays and quartz sands. The now 80 percent heavy mineral concentrate is then pumped to a stock pile area before being transported to a plant for further processing. The tailings of clays and quartz sand is discharged back into the pond behind the suction dredge. As the dredge moves forward, the area behind the dredge is recontoured, covered with topsoil, and revegetated to meet reclamation standards.
  • Auxiliary mining is used in locations that are not suitable for suction dredging. The overburden is removed with heavy earth moving equipment and stock piled for later use in reclamation. The ore body is then loaded on to trucks and hauled to an area in front of the suction dredge. The suction dredge than processes this material as described above. Tailings from the suction dredge are pumped back into the auxiliary area to back fill the mined out pits. The auxiliary areas are then backed filled with overburden, recontoured, covered with topsoil, and revegetated to meet reclamation standards.

What are the reclamation program regulations for heavy mineral mines?

For more information on heavy minerals mining in Florida, please refer to:

E. C. Pirkle, William A. Pirkle, and W. H. Yoho, (1977) The Highland Heavy-Mineral Sand Deposit on Trail Ridge in Northern Peninsular Florida. Report of Investigation No. 84. Bureau of Geology, Florida Department of Natural Resources.

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

Last updated: June 30, 2015

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