Mosaic’s FL Mine Extension Halted Again by Court

The Mosaic Company was issued a second preliminary injunction on Friday that prevents it from extending its South Fort Meade phosphate mine in Central Florida.

Just months after Plymouth-based The Mosaic Company won an appeal, the company was issued another preliminary injunction last week that prevents it from extending its South Fort Meade phosphate mine in Central Florida.

Mosaic has been in a legal battle with environmental groups since last summer over a permit that was issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expand its South Ford Meade mine.

The environmental groups claim that Mosaic's plans to extend its mining into Hardee County violate the U.S. Clean Water Act. In August, a judge agreed with the groups and issued a preliminary injunction against Mosaic, thus preventing the company from extending mining in the area.

But the case was sent back to U.S. District Court in April after 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 take into account other analysis of Mosaic's extension plans.

Shortly after the Appeals Court ruled on the case, Mosaic informed the court that it was preparing to start mining about 700 uplands acres and said it would protect two cattle ponds located in the mining area. Mosaic said that the Army Corps did not object to those plans because no federal permit is required to mine uplands-areas of land that are hilly and of high elevation.

But a judge did object to the plans and on Friday issued another preliminary injunction against Mosaic, thereby halting its plans to mine the uplands.

“We are surprised and disappointed that the district court granted another preliminary injunction after being expressly instructed by the appellate court in April to rule on the merits of this case,” Richard Mack, Mosaic's executive vice president and general counsel, said in a statement. “The inclusion of uplands mining in the injunction is particularly unwarranted because such mining does not require a federal permit.”

Mack added that the company will vigorously pursue all options, including appeals, to defend itself against the injunction, “as we successfully did with the previous injunction,” he said.

According to Mosaic, the South Fort Meade mine produces 6.6 million tons of phosphate rock annually and provides the raw material for three Mosaic crop-nutrient manufacturing facilities in Florida. In a conference call that took place last year, the company said that it needed to expand because it was close to fully exhausting the available phosphate ore in the area.

The company recently said that it will be able to support its planned finished phosphate fertilizer production levels through the end of fiscal 2012 through a combination of existing phosphate rock inventories, higher output from its other Florida mines, increasing shipments from a joint venture, and supplemental purchases of phosphate rock from third parties.

Mosaic said that it will seek a stay of Friday's preliminary injunction-in other words, try to get the injunction suspended. Should a stay not be granted, the company estimates that its pre-tax costs could increase by about $200 million in its 2012 fiscal year because of higher costs for purchased phosphate rock and unabsorbed fixed costs.

Mosaic is among Minnesota's 15-largest public companies based on its 2010 fiscal-year revenue of $6.8 billion. The company will report its 2011 fiscal-year revenue later this month.