BRADENTON -- Like in high stakes poker, the winning and losing are big. Mosaic mining doesn't go anywhere without their team of lawyers, but it didn't seem to help them this time. They went through their usual rubber stamp - song and dance, and brought the graphs and stats to map the way, yet something was different; they weren't the only source of information in the room, when they addressed the Manatee County Board of Commissioners on Thursday.
Opposition to the permit to expand mining at their Duette operation started with Frank Kirkland, who spoke of the first Environmental Impact Study (AEIS) involving phosphate mining back in the 70's. It recognized the destruction of what once was Kissengen Springs, a wonderful water park and water source, and how we lost 340 miles of streams and rivers. Then came Dr. Carol Brias, who said that she and her husband were among the first to sell the phosphate mining companies land and how they never lived up to their promise to refurbish it.
Then Darel Hardy, who said he was promised the Windgate mine was bankrupted and wouldn't start again, so he bought land and built a house only to be stuck with devalued land and no way out. Gabriele Kosak told almost the same story, only when he called, he said no one had told him that Mosaic had already put in an application to restart the old mine.
There was Bob Felman, a retired environmental engineer, claiming there is no overriding public benefit. And a champion performance by Ralf Brookes, a city, county and local government attorney, giving advice that commissioners didn't seem eager to receive. It warned them of the position they would be putting themselves in if they went through with permitting. He explained how the board could take the high road, avoid Mosaic's usual threat to sue, and protect the people and land of the county too by simply waiting until the AIES came out in order to make an informed position, rather than undermining its intent.
Then Sydney Bacchus stole the show. With her overwhelming PhD credentials in hydrology sciences and wetland studies, and her many published peer reviews, she put on a presentation that factually buried Mosaic's usual self-serving rhetoric. And there were others, all well informed, all eager to share their knowledge. Without a doubt, the most powerful displays of community participants, coming forth with information that should make any community leader proud. Yet clearly, not all were.
Some Commissioners seemed ready to excuse the AEIS requested by the federal government. The Army Corp Of Engineers will be finished the study later this year. It examines phosphate mining's past, present and future effects, including economics, for central Florida. Like Mosaic, it is as if some commissioners don't want to know what the findings might tell.
It was more than obvious a few commissioners weren't happy at all that there was a snag in the permitting process. Mosaic went outside to huddle and look for a remedy. It was almost as if panic had struck them all. The county attorney kept Mosaic well advised of their options, informing them of how a continuance was an option and a vote to continue until March 1, passed 5 to 2 with Whitmore and Hayes dissenting, although the AEIS will still be in the works at that time. For the activists that fought so hard to argue against the permit, it may not be a victory, but they live to fight another day.