The Mining Process
HPS is in the process of applying for permits for a new phosphate mine. The rigorous permitting process requires regulators at the local, state, and federal level—each charged with protecting the public interest—to approve the project. Of the 10,562-acre property, only about half will actually be mined. An additional 887 acres will be used to support the mine. The remainder of the land—4,416 acres—will be unaffected to preserve ecologically valuable areas and comply with setback requirements.
After permits have been issued, mining operations can begin. The first step will be construction of necessary infrastructure. The draglines, very large pieces of machinery that will excavate the phosphate matrix, will be delivered in pieces and assembled on site. Then, after erosion and stormwater control features are installed, the beneficiation plant and support facilities will be constructed. The sand/clay mix plant, which allows for rapid reclamation without the need for clay settling areas, will be constructed nearby.
The property to be mined will be split into mining blocks of 50 to 100 acres, which will be mined in sequence over the 20-year-life of the mine. The land will be cleared on a block-by-block basis, limiting the impacts of mining. The HPS families plan to continue agricultural operations on the land that is not being actively mined.
At the start of mining for each block, biologists will conduct surveys for protected species and execute a species management plan approved by state and federal regulators. Silt fences and a ditch and berm system will be constructed around each mine block to reduce erosion and to protect nearby waterways.
The ditch and berm system will capture stormwater runoff within the mining block to facilitate groundwater recharge. A conveyor system will be constructed to connect mine blocks to the beneficiation plant.
Next, mining begins. The topsoil and overburden will be removed and stored nearby for use in reclamation. Then, the dragline will excavate the phosphate matrix. It will be moved by conveyor belt to the beneficiation plant where the matrix will be separated into three elements—phosphate rock, sand, and clay. The phosphate rock will be shipped offsite via railroad for processing. Since there will be no processing of phosphate rock on site, there will be no phosphogypsum stacks. When this process is complete in a block, the dragline will be moved to the next block.
The sand and clay that were separated from the phosphate rock will be recombined at the sand/clay mix plant, and the conveyor system will transfer the material back to the mine block. There, it will be combined with overburden previously removed and used in the reclamation process to re-fill in the mining block. The backfilled block will be contoured back to its original condition. Where applicable, the area will be covered with topsoil and planted with vegetation.
In the coming days and weeks, please return to this space for further details on HPS’s proposed phosphate mining plan.