A glimpse at the land in the future
HPS is committed to operating its phosphate mine in a way that will protect the surrounding environment and ecosystem. With that in mind, HPS has crafted reclamation plans that will largely mimic existing conditions and topography, while accounting for necessary post-mining changes and increasing the function and quality of those environments.
I. Pre-mining topography
The project area ranges in elevation from roughly 65 to 150 feet above sea level, with rolling hills and ridges in the higher areas and rivers, streams, and swamps in the lower areas. Of these lowland water features, the most dominant is the New River system and its associated tributaries, but various small swamps are also present. Man-made features on the site include two railways, several ditches and agricultural drainage features, and two elevated roadways - County Road 231 and State Road 121. The dominant land use is improved pasture, used for cattle grazing, which occupies more than 2,800 acres of the site. Pockets of land are dedicated to other agricultural activities including farm structures, pecan groves, poultry feeding, and row crops. Land uses, topography, soil composition, and wildlife usage of the project site have been surveyed and cataloged.
II. Reclamation methodology
During reclamation, HPS plans to backfill mine cuts according to survey data so the topography of the reclaimed arearoughly corresponds to pre-mining elevations and the upper soil profile. Ensuring the upper soil profile matches the pre-mining soils will assist in the recreation of natural wetlands and drainage ways. After that, HPS will use lightweight earthmoving equipment to grade and contour the property to recreate as much as possible the natural hills, valleys and other features. In manylow-lying places, muck removed from mined wetlands will be placed in reclamation wetlands to support recruitment of the original herbaceous species. Supplemental plantings may be undertaken when necessary to promote growth, and wetland trees and shrubs will be planted that correspond with the native vegetation in these areas . Upland pastures will be planted to the specific agricultural needs of the property owner.
III. Post-reclamation topography
Following reclamation, the project area will look in many ways as it does now—a rolling pastoral landscape engaged in active agriculture. However, there will be a few changes. Hundreds of acres of existing cleared pasture will be converted to a forested buffer around preserved wetlands and waterways that will reduce erosion and filter runoff from the fields. These buffers will be planted with various species of trees at final density of more than 200 trees per acre. Similarly, a forested upland buffer will be created around reclaimed wetlands and streams to provide the same functions to those areas.
Agricultural ditches will be eliminated, allowing streams to return to their natural flow, and abandoned cattle ponds will be filled. There will be more than 550 acres of new lakes on the property because removal of phosphate decreases the volume of materials available to fill in the post reclamation landscape. Care has been taken, however, with the placement and design of the lakes to ensure these lakes will not decrease water flow to adjacent waterways such as the New River. The reclamation lakes will also provide habitat and foraging grounds to many species on the property.
Florida has strict laws for reclamation of lands mined for phosphate, and HPS is committed to exceeding those requirements by creating more valuable wetlands than were removed, planting additional forests, and recording a conservation easement over the New River riparian corridor and other native habitat areas of the site to ensure those areas areprotected in perpetuity.