LAKE BUTLER, Fla. -- For more than four hours Monday evening, residents in Union County argued with the mining company HPSII over a proposed phosphate mining project residents claims would jeopardize their health and property value.
"We have many concerns with the issue of mining among them is the destruction of the river, destruction of our property values, the destruction of the scenic beauty of our rural county, and the environmental health concerns. I'm sure people have seen that phosphate mining is linked to cancer," said Eric Thomas, founder of Citizens Against Phosphate Mining.
The Union County Commission called the meeting to hear from both sides in an effort to decide whether to impose a moratorium banning phosphate mining for one year in hopes of figuring out a way to ban the process all together.
Thomas said the phosphate mining's negative affects are far reaching.
"It will impact not only our county, not only Bradford County, but all the counties in the surrounding area, including Alachua, including Columbia, anywhere that has a border with the Sante Fe River," Thomas said.
HPSII, a company formed by four local families, presented their plan to mine 7,400 acres to the county commission as well as residents hoping to ease those concerns.
"This is totally a different process," Jack Hazen with HPSII said.
Hazen said the company planned to use a "unique" technique and new technology to excavate the material.
HPSII also claimed the project would pump more than $156 million into the local economy and create more than 500 jobs.
Ed Murawski, an environmental consultant with HPSII, said the project is still in its early stages.
"I think the folks need to understand that the state, the federal government and the county are all going to be making sure that this is done in an environmentally friendly way," Murawski said.
There will be an additional meeting before the county commission takes a vote.
In the meantime, there will be two more additional community meetings:
March 14 at 5:30 p.m. at Bradford County High School
March 16 at 5:30 p.m. at Lake Butler Community Center