Bradford County officials on Tuesday canceled a public workshop about phosphate mining.
County commissioners had scheduled the workshop for Friday at 6:30 p.m.
But the county is now considering an application for a phosphate mining permit from HPSII Enterprises, which precludes the commissioners from publicly discussing the subject, according to county attorney Will Sexton.
“While considering an application request, the board of county commissioners acts in a quasi-judicial capacity,” Sexton said. “In those cases, it’s really not appropriate when the board hears comment or testimony on the issue.”
Phosphate mining first emerged as a local controversy this year in neighboring Union County, which last week placed a one-year moratorium on mining permits.
Phosphate is used primarily as a fertilizer. Florida accounts for about two-thirds of the U.S. supply of the mineral and nearly one-quarter of the global market, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Bradford County residents, by contrast, seemed more welcoming to the idea at first, but tempers flared during in a town hall meeting last week, as recorded by an attendee:
The proposed mine is on the radar of Alachua County officials, too.
“Alachua County does need to be concerned because we’re downstream from the location where the mine is proposed to be located,” said Chris Bird, Alachua County’s Environmental Protection director.
Bradford County commissioners will have to table discussions until a decision is made about the 156-page mining master plan application.
Sexton recommended they not respond if residents bring up the topic in future meetings, until the commissioners approve or deny the initial plan.
“We couldn’t stop folks from choosing to exercise their right to express their opinion on this issue,” Sexton said.