Federal, State, and Local Permits, Approvals, and Authorizations
Operators of new phosphate mines in Florida, like the HPS families, are required to obtain permits at the federal, state, and local levels prior to beginning any mining operations on their property. Multiple agencies at every level of government are involved in the permit review processes. This process often takes years and requires numerous intermediate authorizations and approvals. At every step, HPS must also comply with all federal and state statutory and regulatory requirements and local county comprehensive plans and land development regulations.Below is a brief summary of the major permits and approvals that HGS must obtain prior to commencement of mining operations.
Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act requires a permit for the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States, including wetlands. During the permitting process, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers evaluates proposed projects under a public interest standard as well numerous environmental criteria.
At the state level, an Environmental Resource Permit is required for all activities in the state that involve stormwater management or impacts to wetlands or other surface waters. As part of the application process, HPS must submit for approval a Conceptual Reclamation Plan, a Wildlife Management Plan, and and engineering drawings of all proposed mine features, along with numerous other support studies and documents. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) then evaluates a permit application for compliance with Florida statutes and rules to ensure that all aspects of the proposed activity follow Florida law and are protective of the surrounding environment (e.g., water quality, wetlands, wildlife) and human health and safety. Copies of the application are also sent to potentially interested government agencies for review and comment.
HPS must obtain an Industrial Wastewater permit from FDEP. This permit addresses both groundwater and surface water discharges and requires treated water be discharged only atapproved discharge points and only if it meets strict standards set in the permit.
While much of the water needs for the mine will be met usingrecycled stormwater and dewatering discharge, HPS will also obtain a Water Use Permit from the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) to supplement these water resources during very dry conditions. HPS must demonstrate that both the dewatering of mine cuts and proposed supplemental use of water will not cause adverse impacts to existing users of the groundwater or to water resources of the SRWMD before such use will be permitted.
Finally, HPS must obtain Special Use Permits from the Bradford and Union County Boards of County Commissioners. As part of the approval process for these permits, each county requires an approved Operating Permit, Operations Monitoring Plan, Reclamation Plan, and Master Mine Plan, and other requirements. The county approvals require a demonstration that the project is consistent with each county’s comprehensive plan, is compatible with the surrounding land use, and complies with the local land development regulations.
Only after obtaining each and every one of these permits and complying with every applicable federal, state, and local law and regulation may HPS begin mining operations.