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Mining eyed upstream

Published By: Charlotte Sun

The DeSoto County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing May 4 to clear the way for future phosphate mining near Pine Level.

According to a public hearing notice, Mosaic Fertilizer LLC and DeSoto County wish to amend the county’s Future Land Use Map to “create an overlay category identifying lands with a high potential for phosphate mining” in a roughly 24,000-acre area west of Arcadia, between state roads 70 and 72.

The hearing is set for 5:30 p.m. in the DeSoto County Commission chambers in Arcadia.

But don’t expect digging to begin anytime soon.

Commission Chairman Ronald Neads said if Mosaic decided tomorrow that it wanted to start mining the property, the permitting process alone takes at least five years.

“I don’t see any mining there in the near future,” he said.

Most of the property in question has been owned by the fertilizer manufacturer for many years, Neads said, and as long as the company is in compliance with the law, the county has no right to tell them how to use the property.

And he thinks phosphate mining eventually could become an economic boon to DeSoto County.

“It’s been good for Hardee County, and it will be good for us as long as we get a big piece of the action,” he said. “They do reclamation on the land and make the land useful again, for things like grazing cattle. It’s a positive.”

But he admits the idea of phosphate mining always has been a source of controversy.

“It was a hot topic when I first ran (for office) 10 years ago. It’s a hot topic today,” Neads said.

But Mosaic spokesman Russell Schweiss said the company has no immediate plans to begin digging in DeSoto County, adding the amendment to the land-use map is essentially a housekeeping measure.

“It’s not in relation to any immediate plans. We’ve been reviewing all of our land holdings to make sure they match up with future plans,” he said. “It’s become a hodgepodge over the years because of the merger of many companies. We just want to be able to take an organized approach to making sure all of the correct information is available to planners.”

Schweiss and Neads said the mining overlay does not constitute any changes to land-use ordinances or zoning regulations, but brings the existing land-use map into compliance with current zoning laws.

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