A Closer Look Into Florida’s Phosphate Mining Industry – by Avinash Pudota (TechFeatured.com – November 6, 2016)

A Short History

Phosphate is a natural, non-renewable resource that is obtained by mining phosphate-containing minerals. Florida’s phosphate rock deposits are believed to have originated when conditions in the seawater caused dissolved phosphorus to solidify and form the sediment that is mined today (1). Sea life also played a big part in forming the sediment deposits.

Ahttps://techfeatured.com/n Army Corps of Engineers’ (5) captain first discovered River Pebble Phosphate along the Peace River, Florida in the late nineteenth century. Mining the phosphate began soon after. The Florida miners had no mechanized excavation equipment. That means early mining was by hand using wheelbarrows, wagons, picks and shovels.

The chore of mining was slow and labor intensive, but the phosphate pebble did show promise. Interest in this pebble increases and the phosphate industry was born. The early twentieth century brought mechanized excavation equipment like steam shovels to the Florida phosphate mines, but steam shovels didn’t last long.

Draglines were first introduced in the 1920s and increased in usage since. Dragline technology continued to advance, leading miners to move from the river-pebble to the land-pebble and hard-rock phosphates, and then to mining the finer-grained “phosphate matrix”.

Phosphate matrix deposits (4) occur over a wide area of west-central Florida known as the “Bone Valley”. In 1900 it took 3 to 4 years to mine 15 acres with picks and shovels. In the early days of the small draglines, about 5 acres were mined in a year. As draglines grew in size, they were able to mine 500 to 600 acres a year. Conservatively, today’s draglines are able to completely destroy 50 acres a month.

Phosphate Mining Process Florida’s phosphate ore (matrix) is found some 40 feet below the earth’s surface. The matrix lies intertwined with one of Florida’s real treasures, aquifer systems. Phosphate rock is mined and then manufactured through the fertilizer manufacturing process.

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