Santa Fe River Springs Protection Forum Goes to PCS Mine in Hamilton Co.

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Aerial view of the mine processing plant visited during the tour. From the ground it is difficult to realize the size of the plant. This photo and the other aerial views were taken by your historian Nov. 23, 2016, on a survey of Sabal Trail, thanks to Suwnannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman.

Alachua County’s Santa Fe River Springs Protection Forum, run by Stacie Greco held its quarterly meeting today at the Potash Corporation mine in Hamilton County, with a group of 20 very interested people.  Those in attendance were, for the most part environmentalists, which included members from county conservation boards, Audubon Society, Our Santa Fe River,  Sierra Club, Ichetucknee Alliance, Florida Park Service, agriculture and soil biochemists from the University of Florida, Garden Clubs, Florida Springs Council, SRWMD, Palm Beach DEP and Alachua County Environmental Protection Department.

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PCS Conference Center on beautiful Eagle Lake, on re-claimed mine land. This is typical of the scenery the tour-takers were shown. Staclie Greco and Patrick Moran (UF), with Tom Brady of Gainesville behind. Enjoying the view on the right is David Wilson.  Stacie never fails to provide a top-notch program, and she has a great following among the best environmentalists.  Alachua County is a bright bulb for the environment among counties, an example for all the rest.

 

So popular was this tour that Stacie had a sell-out within 30 minutes of announcing the event.  There was a limit of 20 and a waiting list of an equal number.  The session was  very instructional with information shared by PSC  employees Mike Williams, David Still, ex-executive director of SRWMD, and Don Dahlgren, manager of restoration.

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Mike Williams and David Still had the ear of the audience. There was time for many questions in a relaxed, informal atmosphere.

After the information session, a bus tour was taken to the processing Swift Creek Plant.  Everything was viewed from the bus, and no processing was seen up close and no excavation activities.  No un-reclaimed land was viewed, other than some gyp stacks.

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Don Dahlgren (front) and Mike Williams (far right) offer unlimited information on the noisy bus ride.  Stacie Greco and Chris Bird, Director of Alachua County Environmental Protection Department, on far right.

Since OSFR is involved with the proposed HPS Enterprises mine in Union/Bradford Counties, some off-the-record mention is of interest.  The PSC representatives offered the information that, at the moment, there are only two phosphate companies in Florida, PSC and Mosaic.  To begin a new company would not be easy, and would require at least eight to nine years from initiation to first operation.  A tremendous amount of capital would  be required that would have to be able to sit for that time length without producing income.  To build a just a processing plant of any kind would cost hundreds of millions.

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A small part of the processing plant at Swift Creek. A great deal of acid is used in mining phosphate.

These representatives were also aware of  Professor Hassan El-Shall’s attempts to perfect a new process for water/solids separation in the mining process.  The HPS plan projects a use of 20 mgd,  the PCS mine uses average of 25 mgd from groundwater, and 10 mgd of surface water from Eagle Lake.   PCS makes a case that the drying up of White Springs was not caused by the mine, but rather by the heavy withdrawals of Jacksonville.

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One of several huge gyp stacks near Swift Creek plant. Note the full sized Caterpillar on top, far right. Radioactive gyp stacks have no practical use so are left in piles.

 

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These last two photos show areas not open to the tour. PSC employs four drag lines, but none was visible. One drag line bucket removes 45 cubic yards of earth at a time.

Potash Corp. has not been without problems.   They have experienced sinkholes and acid spills, and in 2014 the parent company was fined for violating the Clean Air Act, and entered into a settlement agreement to reduce harmful air emissions at eight U.S. production plants, including plants in White Springs.

OSFR found the mine tour a very interesting learning process, and thanks go to both Stacie Greco and the PCS mine.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life:  once taken, it cannot be brought back-


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