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Limestone, Shell, and Dolomite 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, fuller’s earth, peat, clay, gravel, and sand, and the direct participation of other agencies in the regulatory process.

What is limestone, shell, and dolomite?

For millions of years, the area we now call Florida was covered by oceans and shallow marshes.  During this time, limestones were formed by chemical deposition and by the accumulation of shells from minute sea creatures.  Many invertebrate animals (animals with no backbones) take calcite from sea water to construct their shells.  When they die the shells fall to the sea bed. Their remains slowly built up layers of sediment thousands of feet thick.  These sediments are the limestone, shell, and dolomite formations that are mined today.  The mineable formations in Florida range in age from the Middle Eocene (42 million years ago) to the Pleistocene (0.5 million years ago).  These formations may also be found exposed in caves, stream valleys, sinks, and in the coastal lowlands.

Limestone is a sedimentary rock which is more than 50% calcite (calcium carbonate, CaCO3) and dolomite (calcium magnesium carbonate, CaMg(CO3)2).  It can vary widely in purity, consistency and hardness.  In Florida it can be found as a soft chalky material with microfossils, a hard recrystalized mass, a grainy sand-lime mass, or a fossiliferous mass.

In some areas the limestone has been converted though a chemical process to dolomite.  Dolomite is a sedimentary rock containing more than 50% of the minerals calcite and dolomite, with dolomite being the most abundant.

Shell formations vary from unconsolidated sand and shell, to loosely cemented shell.  This includes the coquina (Spanish for "small shells") formations found in the coastal areas from St. Johns to Palm Beach Counties.  Some sand and clay formations may include minor amounts of shell material; however, there is not enough shell to consider these true limestones.

Many of Florida's unique habitats are the result of the underlying limestone.  When rain water mixes with decaying surface vegetation, it becomes mildly acidic.  Where the overlaying clay layers are thin or absent, the acidic water dissolves the limestone.  Caves, sinks, springs, depressions, and stream and rivers beds are the result of this process.

The quality of the mined resources determines how it may be used.  The mined resource may be used as general fill, crushed stone, aggregate for concrete and roadway asphalt, rip rap (large stones used to control erosion), lime, Portland cement, plaster, fertilizer (aglime), as an acid neutralizer for power plant smoke emissions, etc.

Where is limestone, shell, and dolomite mined in Florida?

Limestone mining began in Florida during the First Spanish Period.  In 1672 construction began on the Castillo de San Marcos, in St. Augustine, using locally mined coquina.  This is the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States.  In 1753 construction began on a limestone fort in St. Marks to replace older wooden structures.

The limestone, shell, and dolomite formations are generally covered by layers of sand and clay.  Where the covering is thin or absent, commercial mining of these formations is possible.  This includes most areas between the Choctawhatchee River and the Florida Keys.  The mine boundaries can be seen through Map Direct.

How is limestone, shell, and dolomite mined in Florida?

Prior to mining the land is cleared and the trees are harvested.  The overburden is removed and stockpiled along the edge of the mine for later use in reclamation.  The storage piles are also used to contain sediment and stormwater within the project limits.

The soft rock and shell may be mined using excavators and draglines.  The hard rock may have to be broken with explosives prior to excavation.  The excavated material may be crushed and sorted prior to shipment to customers.

What are the reclamation standards for limestone, shell, and dolomite mines? 

The Florida Legislature required reclamation of those lands disturbed by the mining of limestone, shell, and dolomite after October 1, 1986.  "Existing mines” are mines where operations began on before October 1, 1986.  At existing mines, reclamation requirements apply only to new surface areas that were initially disturbed by operations after January 1, 1989.  For mines that began operations after October 1, 1986, all areas disturbed by mining operations must be reclaimed to the reclamation standards.

Mine operators are required to provide the Department with a conceptual reclamation plan.  This shows existing conditions for the project area, where mining will occur, and the post reclamation topography and groundcover.

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 limestone, shell, and dolomite mines are detailed in Part III of Chapter 378, Florida Statutes, and Chapter 62C-36, Florida Administrative Code.  The forms used for the reclamation program and filing instructions are may be obtained online.

What permits are required for limestone, shell, and dolomite mines?

There is no comprehensive permit that covers all aspects of large developments, including mines.  To start a large mining 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 Applicant’s 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.

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 limestone, shell, and dolomite 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.


The Miami-Dade Lake Belt Area encompasses 77.5 square miles of environmentally sensitive land at the western edge of the Miami-Dade County urban area.  The wetlands and lakes of the Lake Belt offer the potential to buffer the Everglades from the potentially adverse impacts of urban development.  Rock mined from the Lake Belt supplies one-half of the limestone used annually in Florida.  In 1992, the Florida Legislature recognized the importance of the Lake Belt Area’s limestone resources to the state as well as the need to sensitively plan for protection of the public drinking water supply (Section 373.4149, F.S.).  The Legislature created the Miami-Dade County Lake Belt Plan Implementation Committee and directed it to develop a plan which: (a) enhances the water supply for Miami-Dade County and the Everglades; (b) maximizes efficient recovery of limestone while promoting the social and economic welfare of the community and protecting the environment; and (c) educates various groups and the general public of the benefits of the plan.  Mitigation for wetland impacts associated with mining within the Miami-Dade Lake Belt Area has resulted in thousands of acres of wetland preservation, creation and enhancement in Miami-Dade and Hendry County.

Where the rock formation is hard, explosives may be used to break up the rock into sizes that may be excavated.  The State Fire Marshal has the sole and exclusive authority to promulgate standards, limits, and regulations regarding the use of explosives in conjunction with construction materials mining activities.  This authority includes directly or indirectly, the operation, handling, licensure, or permitting of explosives and setting standards or limits, including, but not limited to, ground vibration, frequency, intensity, blast pattern, air blast and time, date, occurrence, and notice restrictions.

Operators of limestone mines may reclaim areas as sheer walls within the reclamation area.  A sheer wall means any near vertical surface of consolidated limestone that is above the water table and ten feet or more in height.  The sheer wall must be constructed to meet the requirements of the reclamation rules.

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 12, 2015

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