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 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.
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
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.
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
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