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Heavy Mineral 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 are heavy minerals?

Section 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. 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.

Where are the heavy mineral mines in Florida?

Heavy mineral mining began in Florida in 1916 at Mineral City (now Ponte Vedra Beach). At one time heavy minerals were mined from several location along the east coast of Florida from Boulogne to Vero Beach. At this time, the industry only operates in Baker, Bradford, Clay, and Duval Counties. The mine boundaries can be seen through Map Direct.

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 is then loaded on to trucks and hauled to an area in front of the suction dredge or to a Mobile Mining Unit. At the suction dredge the ore is process as described above. At the Mobile Mining Unit over-sized material including roots, rocks, and hardpan are removed. The remaining material is slurried and pumped to a Modular Concentrator for further separation. Tailings from the suction dredge or Modular Concentrator 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 standards for heavy mineral mines?

The Florida Legislature mandated reclamation of those lands mined for heavy minerals 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 heavy mineral mines are detailed in Part III of Chapter 378, Florida Statutes, and Chapter 62C-37, Florida Administrative Code..

What permits are required for heavy mineral 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).

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.

How does the Department monitor activities at heavy mineral 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.

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

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