Florida's Mining Dilemma

Social IssuesEnvironment

  • Author Davey Crockett
  • Published November 23, 2015
  • Word count 1,214

Florida's Phosphate Mining Catastrophe

The Bone Valley region, also known as the Peace River Watershed, is located in southwest central Florida, about 30 miles east of the Tampa Bay Area. The Peace River Watershed includes portions of present-day Hardee, Hillsborough, Manatee, and Polk counties where phosphate is mined for use in the production of agricultural fertilizer. Florida currently contains the largest known deposits of phosphates in the United States.

Take a Look from Space

Take a closer look at what you can see from Google Maps. see hyperlink:

"https://www.Google.com/maps?ll=27.840787,-81.99678&z=10&t=m&hl=en-US&gl=US&mapclient=embed" You will see a large land area, about thirty miles east of the Tampa Bay Area, in the peninsula of Florida. This area is known as the Peace River Watershed. Here you will see numerous, very large man-made square or rectangular shaped mine pits, filled with clear fresh water from the crushed aquifer systems.

These square pits full of fresh aquifer water are distinguishable from Florida's beautiful natural blue lakes and ponds. These giant square pits are man-made craters made by phosphate draglines digging for phosphates a hundred feet into Florida's natural water supply. The water supply is in the form of underground water tables or "aquifers systems". Google Maps clearly show phosphate draglines have stripped and scarred the Southwest Central Florida earth by a full square mile from one phosphate mine, alone.

The phosphate industries' term "overburden" is more commonly known to the lay-person as lakes, ponds, trees, pastures, grass lands, rivers, natural springs, aquifer systems, watersheds, etc. Draglines are so large and numerous that they mine thousands of acres of "overburden" in just a month's work. These huge draglines mine down a hundred feet penetrating then crushing and completely removing Florida's natural aquifer systems. Untold volumes of water no longer contained by the aquifer system are free to fill newly created phosphate pits in the southwest central Florida earth.

As of this writing, thousands of square miles of critical wetlands, aquifer systems, and watersheds continue to be purchased by the phosphate mining industry for the purpose of strip mining the contents. This all happens with the permission of the state and counties of Florida as they issue permits earmarked for phosphate strip mines. Unfortunately, these permits grant the phosphate strip mining industry access to Florida's rich geography including Florida's unique aquifer systems. Florida's aquifer systems took nature millennia (thousands of years) to perfect and many are now totally extinct. Is Florida phosphate more valuable than Florida's watersheds and aquifers? Florida politics and a phosphate strip mining industry say it is every day. The (2) Florida Department of Environmental Protection Services says, "... in 2000 $1.13 billion dollars of phosphate based fertilizer was exported from Florida making it another one of Florida's leading export commodities".

Phosphate Draglines in Action

The (1)United States Geological Society (USGS) believes draglines can be hundreds of feet in height and can weigh hundreds of tons, as well. A dragline's huge bucket holds up to 65 cubic yards of overburden, which will completely fill 10 standard dump trucks. The dragline removes up to 100 feet of earth known as overburden to the phosphate industry. Unfortunately, the first 60 feet of earth holds Florida's real treasures.

The overburden is simply discarded, giving rise to "phosphate spoil piles". These spoil piles are arranged at the side of what is called the "phosphate mine pits". The phosphate mine pits appear akin to a lunar landscape opposed to the appearance of Florida's natural beauty. The phosphate strip mining industry operates 365 days per year all over southwest central Florida. This relentless removal of overburden by the Florida phosphate industry causes irreparable damage to Florida's aquifer systems.

Watershed and Aquifers

The Peace River Watershed covers 2,300 square miles in the Southwest Central Florida area. It contains the majority of the Florida phosphate mining industry, including Bone Valley. As referred to previously, phosphate strip mining companies use draglines to remove surface soils (known as overburden) a hundred feet down, removing thousands of contiguous acres of Florida's aquifer systems.

Florida state law requires that the surface (60 feet deep), is to be reclaimed. Wetlands are reclaimed on an acre for acre, type for type basis. The phosphate industry reports more than 180,000 acres (728 km2) have been reclaimed in the Peace River Watershed. The phosphate industry vigorously promotes their reclamation projects as bringing back the wetlands and watersheds. Unfortunately, we are being given only half truths.

The Whole Truth

Aquifer systems cannot simply be replaced during the reclamation phase. This fact is not subjective because man cannot replace what took nature thousands of years to create. The aquifers are gone, along with one of Florida's most amazing natural resources, abundant clean fresh water. The phosphate industry claims that they have reclaimed more than 180,000 acres. This is only a half-truth because it doesn't include the equal amount of acreage of Florida's aquifers that are gone forever. Ironically, phosphate is a declining export.

Draglines Job Defined

WIKIPEDIA states, "Large walking draglines, operating twenty-four hours a day in surface mines, excavate raw pebble phosphate mixed with clay and sand (known as matrix) in Bone Valley... ".

Florida's Aquifer Systems Linked To Sinkholes?

The (1) USGS believes areas prone to collapse into sinkholes are located under the southwest central Florida earth. The sinkholes can be induced by large amounts of water consumption, phosphate strip mines included. These sinkholes form based on the rock types, aquifer formations, aquifer formation destruction, and the lack of ground water. This is based on geological hydraulic pressure created by the aquifer systems. Thus, the lack of water pressure on the surface due to aquifer formation destruction causes the overburden to become unstable and collapse, in some cases. Unfortunately, loss of life and property can occur upon a surface collapse. Again, evidence points to the phosphate industry in the form of sinkholes caused by aquifer formation destruction.

Aquifers are nature's hydraulic lifts. Filled with water, aquifers cannot be compressed, so the surface above the aquifer systems is stable, meaning no sinkholes. However, when the aquifers are crushed and removed, the water in these aquifers is now free from containment. This large volume of water fills extraordinarily huge deep pits with clear clean fresh water. Most interestingly, nature now works against us in the form of sinkholes developing over, and geologically near, the crushed aquifer systems..

Southwest central Florida's watersheds and aquifers are becoming extinct due to aquifer system formation destruction via phosphate strip mining operations. Florida's treasures, known to the Florida phosphate mines industry as phosphate overburden, are being destroyed for the valuable phosphate.

Florida's aquifer systems are being completely removed along with the overburden using huge phosphate draglines. Valuable phosphate is removed which leaves (visible from Google Maps) huge blue holes. These beautiful big blue holes are tens of thousands of acres of phosphate strip mine pits where the local natural aquifers have been completely destroyed.

Not surprisingly, the Tampa Bay area in Florida is a sinkhole catastrophe. This area is directly adjacent to the largest phosphate strip mines in the continental United States, where the entire southwest central Florida earths' surface is being supported by the largest aquifer system in the state. The system is known as the Flordan water system. see hyperlink:

(1)The United States Geological Survey (USGS).

(2) The Florida Department of Environmental Protection Services.

Florida Mines - Florida Mines Article Directory

Please stop next month, more interesting articles to follow.

Florida Mines is your website for learning the unethical practices of Florida's phosphate strip mining industry. See how they destroy and pollute unique aquifer systems, watershed, springs, creeks, and rivers. You will see the carnage left behind because their reclamation phase are too few and too far between.


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