By Daniel Sutphin, The Daily Sun Staff Writer, June 1, 2022.
ARCADIA — DeSoto County commissioners and residents want more details from Mosaic Fertilizer Co. regarding reagents in phosphate mining.
“What is the list of reagents and can we get a disclosure of reagents used in the process?” Commissioner Jerod Gross asked during a county workshop focusing on the company’s beneficiation process Tuesday.
Beneficiation involves separating a matrix of phosphate, sand and clay that’s pumped into the plant from the mines.
Reagents are used in that process. They consist of hydrocarbon chemical chains like fatty acids, amines — similar to amino acids — and fuel oil, which is distilled from petroleum.
“Speaking on behalf of the board, and as for the public, I think we want to know what’s being put in the ground and what’s put on these raw products that are going to eventually settle out into the clay settling pits and maybe leach out into our watersheds,” Gross said.
Mosaic owns around 23,000 acres of farmland in DeSoto County. The company wants 14,000 of those acres rezoned to allow mining.
The company’s opponents say mining practices are harmful to Florida habitats, wildlife and waterways, specifically the Peace River and its adjoining streams and estuaries.
The workshops are part of a 2019 dispute settlement between the county and Mosaic, after county commissioners denied the rezoning in 2018. They are set to continue through 2023, when Mosaic plans to resubmit its rezoning request to DeSoto County commissioners.
No action was taken at Tuesday’s workshop. A beneficiation plant would be built and operated on the land if Mosaic is able to get commissioner approval.
Part of that plant’s operations would include “flotation,” in which reagents are added to float phosphate in water for separation from the sand.
Mosaic consultant and professional engineer Subrata Bandy told commissioners reagent formulations consist of long chains of hydrocarbons.
“Chemical formulations and amines and fatty acids, those are (generic) names,” he said. “We could definitely come up with more formulations, but most are proprietary. The (generic) names are the names that are used always in the business. Each chemical would have a safety data sheet, and that would have the properties listed on it.”
Russell Schweiss, Mosaic’s land and resource vice president, added that the company would be willing to have the reagent discussion at a future meeting.
“We’d be open to that discussion in determining how to make you feel comfortable in what we’re using,” he said.