What’s up with the phosphate mining plans?

by Carol Mosley

The company proposing to mine for phosphate in Bradford and Union counties, HPSII, dropped its nearly $300 million Harris Act lawsuit against Union County. The case was dismissed without prejudice, so they could refile if they feel they have a valid case worth fighting.

But what about Bradford County? As of yet, we are unable to get information about HPS’s intentions for Bradford County. The county commission is afraid to act for fear of legal ramifications no matter what they decide. So they do nothing.

In November 2019, HPS submitted a new Master Mining Plan (MMP) with a statement in their cover letter that they are ready to proceed to the Hearing.

In January 2020, the hydrogeologist (Schreuder) hired by Bradford’s consultants (OEC/SWCA) submitted his review of ALL documents to OEC/SWCA. His review contained numerous concerns and expressed some dire possible negative effects. I obtained the report by a Records Request, or else we would not get it until the consultants submit their final report, which they have not.

Now it is September 2022, and nothing has happened since Schreuder’s less than favorable review of the MMP. Why has the consultant not produced the final report for Bradford County based on the final reviews from subcontractors? Who told OEC/SWCA to hold off on the report? Was it our county attorney or our county commission? Was it HPS? Who is actually making the decisions here?

Why is this process failing to abide by the laws regarding Development Orders, F.S.125.022? There are  time frames with limits that are supposed to be followed, and a six year process with two years of silence is not the intention of the law.

It is time for the county commission to request that HPS withdraw their 2016 application. If HPS is not prepared to do that, then hold a Hearing on the November 2019 MMP. We are nearing three years of inaction on that final submission. Either HPS has proof of concept and is ready to go the Hearing, or they should withdraw their application and free the county commission of quasi-judicial mode.

It is time for Alachua County, who vowed to protect the Santa Fe River from potential harm, to ask the hard questions of Bradford County. Maybe they can get us all some real answers. And, they should join with local groups from all three counties who want Bradford County to ask HPS to withdraw their application from Bradford County. If HPS will not, then they should proceed to the Hearing and be ready for a fight.

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