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Court Rejects Injunction on Fla. Phosphate Mining

(CN) - The 11th Circuit threw out an injunction against a Florida phosphate mine owned by Mosaic Fertilizer last week - a setback for environmental groups trying to protect the Everglades, but a boon to the big-name fertilizer company.

Sierra Club and two other groups filed suit against Mosaic and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Col. Alfred Pantano Jr. over a "dredge-and-fill" permit issued in June. The permit, approved by the Corps, allowed the company to strip-mine 7,687 acres of wetlands, streams and uplands for phosphate ore in Hardee County, Fla., about 50 miles southeast of Tampa.

Alleging that Mosaic was in violation of the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedures Act, the groups requested a permanent injunction against strip-mining at the company's South Fort Meade mine. On July 1, a federal judge for the Middle District of Florida remanded the permit, effectively shuttering the mine's operations for several months.

On appeal to the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit, Mosaic argued that the lower court exceeded its authority for granting preliminary injunctive relief. The three-judge appellate panel agreed and vacated the injunction in an unpublished opinion on April 8.

"The district court based the entry of the preliminary injunction entirely on letters from the Environmental Protection Agency which expressed concerns with the permit, and failed to apply the arbitrary and capricious standard in evaluating the Corps' practicable alternatives analysis," the unsigned decision states.

The federal appeals court directed the District Court to stay the issuance of the permit for 90 days to allow for further consideration of the case.

Mosaic lauded the opinion in a statement to investors this week. "The Hardee County Extension permit was an exhaustive, multi-year effort that resulted in the most extensively reviewed and environmentally protective phosphate mining permit in Florida's history," said Richard Mack, Mosaic's executive vice president and general counsel, in the statement. "We expect that our ongoing operations at South Fort Meade, together with other mitigation efforts, will be sufficient to support our finished phosphate production for the 90-day period set forth by the Court of Appeals."

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