Mosaic Co. Wins Florida Mine Appeal

The U.S. Court of Appeals on Friday ruled that a preliminary injunction that restricted The Mosaic Company from moving forward with work at its South Meade, Florida, mine was "improper."

Plymouth-based The Mosaic Company moved one step closer to becoming fully operational at its South Meade, Florida, mine after an appeals court ruled that a preliminary injunction issued against the company, which led to 140 layoffs, was “improper.”

Last year, several environmental groups sued the company. They contested a federal wetlands permit that was issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The groups claimed that the permit, which allowed the extension of Mosaic's mine into Hardee County, violated the U.S. Clean Water Act.

U.S. District Judge Henry Lee Adams agreed with the groups and issued a preliminary injunction in August that restricted Mosaic from conducting any activities related to the permit-forcing the company to lay off 140 workers at the mine.

The company has since hired those employees back after it entered into a partial settlement with the groups in November, according to Richard Mack, Mosaic's executive vice president and general counsel. The settlement allows the company 200 acres of land on which to mine, a small portion of the 10,500 acres issued under the permit.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that the preliminary injunction was “improper” because it was based solely on letters from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and failed to apply the “arbitrary and capricious standard in evaluating the Corps' practicable alternative analysis.”

“While the [EPA] letters may prove to be helpful in evaluating the ultimate merits of the Clean Water Act claim, the full record will need to be analyzed through the deferential lens … to determine whether the Corps came to a rational conclusion,” the Appeals Court said in its ruling.

The Appeals Court said that the U.S. District Court has 90 days to properly assess whether the Corps came to a rational permit decision.

Mosaic is among Minnesota's 15-largest public companies based on its 2010 fiscal-year revenue of $6.8 billion.