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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
used for the ERP program and filing instructions may be obtained
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
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.
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