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Phosphate 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 phosphate?

The mined phosphate includes several naturally occurring minerals that contain phosphorus as well as other elements.  It is primarily used to produce fertilizers for food production.  It may also be used in animal feed supplements, food preservatives, and many industrial products.

Where is phosphate mined in Florida?

Phosphate mining began in Florida in 1883 near Hawthorne in Alachua County.  This hard-rock phosphate was mined in a region extending from Alachua to Citrus Counties.  The mining of pebble phosphate began in 1888 in central Florida and in the 1960’s in Hamilton County.

Today phosphate mining occurs primarily in the central Florida area (Polk, Hillsborough, Manatee, and Hardee counties).  The central Florida phosphate-mining region covers approximately 1.3 million acres of land known as the “Bone Valley.”  One phosphate mining company operates in North Florida (Hamilton County).  The mine boundaries can be seen through Map Direct.

There are 27 phosphate mines covering more than 491,900 acres.  The smallest phosphate mine is approximately 5,000 acres with the largest approximately 100,000 acres.  Of the commodities mined in Florida, phosphate mining is the most land intensive, disturbing between 5,000 to 6,000 acres annually; approximately 25 to 30% of these lands are isolated wetlands or wetlands connected to waters of the state.

How is phosphate mined in Florida?

Various activities are undertaken prior to mining.  These include performing wildlife surveys and relocating threatened and endangered species, clearing the land, using Best Management Practices and other measures to protect areas that will not be mined, and putting systems in place to offset impacts to water levels and flow in the surrounding areas. 

Following clearing and site preparation, large draglines are used to conduct the mining.  The dragline bucket holds from 45 to 65 cubic yards of material and is large enough to hold a truck or van. It scoops up the top 15 to 30 feet of earth known as overburden and dumps it in spoil piles to the side of the mine pit. The dragline then digs out what is known as the matrix, which consists of about equal parts phosphate rock, clay and sand.

Matrix material is then dumped in a pit where high-pressure water guns create a slurry that can then be pumped to the beneficiation plant, which can be several miles away.  At the beneficiation plant the phosphate is separated from the sand and clay.

After going through beneficiation, the clay slurry is pumped through pipelines into large impoundment areas to allow additional settling of the clays.  The sand is pumped through pipelines back to the mine site to be used in reclamation and the phosphate is sent by rail to a separate chemical processing plant where it is processed for use in fertilizer and other products.   The chemical processing is done at separate facilities that are not regulated by the Mining and Mitigation Program.

What are the reclamation standards for phosphate mines?

The Florida Legislature mandated reclamation of those lands mined for phosphate 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 standards for phosphate lands include contouring to safe slopes, providing for acceptable water quality and quantity, revegetation, and the return of wetlands to premining type, nature, function, and acreage.  Reclamation standards for phosphate lands are detailed in Part II of Chapter 378, Florida Statutes, and Chapter 62C-16, Florida Administrative Code.  The forms used for the reclamation program and filing instructions may be obtained online.

What permits are required for phosphate 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 for mines.

Phosphate 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 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.

Phosphate 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) rather than an ERPThe required rate of reclamation is established by statute.  The reports provided below summarize the reports for the rate of reclamation and financial responsibility for all phosphate mines.

 Reclamation Reports

 Financial Responsibility Reports

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 Integrated Habitat Network (IHN) plan is the focus for the reclamation and permitting efforts for phosphate mining in Central Florida.  The IHN is based on a conceptual plan that outlines guiding principles for the design of reclamation in the entire phosphate-mining district (approximately 1.3 million acres of land).  The goals of the IHN are: replace drainage and hydrologic functions disrupted by mining operations; and, provide quality wildlife habitat and corridors by maximization of habitat replacement, protection and connection.  The IHN is not a permit nor is it an approval.

Upper Peace River/Saddle Creek Restoration Project.  The Peace River in west central Florida flows from the Green Swamp south to Charlotte Harbor through one of the most fragmented and extensively modified regions of the State.  The river serves as a critical environmental connection to numerous isolated habitats along its route and provides habitat for a wide variety of birds, fish, and wildlife.  Mining, agriculture, silviculture, and urbanization have had major impacts in the region.  Numerous initiatives to restore and enhance the ecological and hydrological functions of the Peace River watershed have been or are currently being conducted, including several by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Southwest Florida Water Management District, the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, and the U.S. Geologic Survey, among others.

The Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute (FIPR Institute) is a legislatively created state research unit within Florida Polytechnic University.  Since its inception (as the Florida Institute of Phosphate Research) in 1978, the FIPR Institute has grown and developed into a world-class research entity specializing in phosphate-related issues and industrial applied science and engineering.

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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