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Manatee County Phosphate Mine Rezoning Extended

UPDATED: 1/31:

Manatee County Commissioners extended a public hearing on the proposed rezoning of the Wingate East phosphate mine until Wednesday.

Commissioners Monday finished a two-day public hearing, where most of the speakers opposed the mine expansion. On Wednesday, Feb. 15, they'll question Mosaic engineers and county staffers, beginning at 9 a.m. The board is expected to vote on the rezoning request at the end of that meeting.

Monday, dozens of people told commissioners what they think about the mine expansion.

Frank Harrison of Terra Ceia says Mosaic has given a lot back to the local community.

"Mosaic has repeatedly proven to be an outstanding corporate citizen by providing charitable gifts of parks and fire department facilities and equipment," he said, "as well as numerous donations to local charities, just to name a few."

Most of the speakers came out against the mine expansion. Ricky Mafera has lived along the Myakka River for 25 years. He says Mosaic has a history of spills and sinkholes that has will only continue.

"Can we in Manatee County afford to take those kinds of risks with the Manatee River, Peace River and possibly the Manatee County watershed?" he asked commissioners. "Please deny this application."

You can read a background story about the Wingate Mine HERE:

Here's the original story:


Manatee County Commissioners on Monday are resuming a public hearing on a plan by Mosaic to more than double the size of its Wingate phosphate mine. 

A full day of speakers and presentations on Thursday didn't provide enough time for more than 60 people who were scheduled to speak.

That included Carlin O'Reilly. She's married to an engineer with Mosaic.

"The vote to expand the Wingate Mine will impact thousands of jobs in Manatee County," she said, "and will extend the life of the mine, as well as careers, for years to come."

One of the people opposing the rezoning was Stuart Smith, representing the local chapter of the Sierra Club. He said commissioners should be mindful of a sinkhole that opened at another Mosaic property near Mulberry, where millions of gallons of toxic water flowed into the aquifer.

"Years ago, you could be sure the people who built this plant at New Wales came to the Polk County Commission, with assurances they could make nature do their bidding and leave it better than before," he told the board. "But we're here today because in September, we got another reminder of how wrong they could be."

So many people registered to speak, that Manatee Commissioners will continue the public hearing at 10 a.m. Monday.

Both the Planning Commission and county staffers already have come out in favor of the rezoning.

A tugboat approaches the phosphate dredger at the Wingate Mine
Steve Newborn / WUSF News
A tugboat approaches the phosphate dredger at the Wingate Mine

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Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.