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Judge tells Mosaic to halt work at site near Peace River

Published By: HeraldTribune.com

A federal judge has halted work at a 10,800-acre site in Hardee County that would bring mining closer to the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor watershed.

Middle District of Florida Judge Henry Adams ruled that local environmental groups stand a good chance of success in their lawsuit that accuses the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of violating federal law by granting the Mosaic Co. a mining permit June 14 without sufficient review.

The temporary restraining order will halt operations at the site until a hearing on a more permanent injunction scheduled for July 22. Mosaic were preparing the site until the order but had not yet begun mining.

Damage to the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor and their headwaters is "sufficiently likely" if mining starts, Adams said in his order.

In their lawsuit, environmental groups claim the Corps of Engineers failed to hold a public meeting on the project and should have conducted an Environmental Impact Statement. The National Environmental Policy Act mandates such a statement if a project significantly affects the environment.

Corps officials determined that the environmental assessment was not needed despite a request from the Environmental Protection Agency, nearby counties and citizens that one be conducted, according to the lawsuit.

Corps officials did not return a call for comment.

The Corps has since agreed to conduct an environmental assessment on the phosphate mining impacts on the Peace River basin.

"You're supposed to do those up front," said Tom Reese, a lawyer representing the Sierra Club.

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