Brief History of Phosphate Mining in Florida
Florida has a long history of phosphate mining in the state. Florida’s “Bone Valley” region, encompassing 1.3-million acres in Central Florida, was created millions of years ago when sediment rich in phosphate was deposited in layers on the sea floor. Phosphate mining began in the state in 1883, in Alachua County. Mining of the Bone Valley region began in 1888. Since that time, mining techniques have evolved from the early years of pick-and-shovel mining to a fully-mechanized process that uses draglines. So too have processing techniques changed—separation advancements retain phosphate particles that were previously discarded as waste.
Phosphate mining regulations have kept up with mining and processing advancements. Reclamation regulations were first implemented in 1975. In 1978, the Legislature created a state research unit within Florida Polytechnic University that is now known as the Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute (FIPR). Regulations were amended in 1987 to require “acre-for-acre” and “type-for-type” reclamation of wetlands, and again in 2006 to require “foot-for-foot” replacement of streams impacted by mining.
Additionally, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) began requiring Environmental Resource Permits (ERPs) for new phosphate mines in 1996.
Reclamation processes are also on the cusp of advancement. In 2017 FIPR, working with HPS II Enterprises, LLC, published the results of a pilot study that will accelerate reclamation and return mined land to usable conditions in a shorter time than previously possible.
The graphic below provides a brief timeline of the history of phosphate mining in Florida.
Rule 16C-16.0051, Florida Administrative Code, 1987–2018