DUETTE — Mosaic Co., world’s largest manufacturer of phosphate-based chemical fertilizers, expects to be approved to begin digging up 3,700 acres of East Manatee County farmland next summer.
The acreage, an extension of mining operations at the company’s 11,000-acre Wingate Creek phosphate mine on the border with Hardee County, is part of a shift of Mosaic’s business to south central Florida and Manatee County in particular. If approved, a rezone for the company’s so-called Wingate East lands would sustain mining there for another two decades.
Mosaic plans have an even bigger presence in Manatee County in the coming years. Its planned 40,000-acre DeSoto mine straddles DeSoto County and southeastern Manatee County. About half of the acreage is in Manatee County. All of it, including 9,000 acres owned by others where Mosaic owns the mining rights, may well be mined in coming decades as the company pursues the raw materials it needs to make its fertilizers.
Company officials are counting on the Manatee County Board of Commissioners to rezone its Wingate East acreage and approve a master mining plan in late winter or spring. When Wingate East opens, it will be the biggest-ever chunk of new mining lands Mosaic has opened in the county. The new master plan makes Manatee County a major part of Mosaic’s mining operations for the next 60 to 70 years.
If history is an indicator, there is only a small chance that Mosaic won’t get what it wants. The company applied for the Wingate East rezone just over a year ago. Thus far, company officials say, the application has not encountered any snags. But if it does, Mosaic would find a way to work it out.
“We work to find a solution that benefits both sides,” said Jackie Barron, a spokeswoman for the Wingate mine.
It hasn’t always been like this. A similar expansion request in 2008 for a then-new mining tract at Mosaic’s Four Corners mine in northeast manatee county was turned down by the Manatee County Board of Commissioners in 2008 when commissioners decided it lacked adequate wetland protections.
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