The Phosphate Industry and Florida’s Economy

Florida’s phosphate industry impacts the state’s economy in many ways.

According to industry statistics as reported in the Florida Phosphate Council’s “Phosphate Facts, the phosphate mining industry paid more than $85.9 million in severance, property sales and other taxes and fees in 2003. In that same year, industry statistics show that the industry employed about 6,000 people with the annual total compensation for a phosphate industry employee being $72,000. It is also noted, that for every job the industry provides there are at least five other positions that exist because of the industry’s impact on shipping, transportation, and other related industries.

The phosphate industry also owns or has mineral rights to about 443,210 acres of Florida land and has a multi-billion dollar capital investment in the state. The Council’s 2003 fact sheet reported that the industry spent $71.7 million on capital expenditures for systems to control and treat pollution and conserve water. An additional $140.9 million was spent, according to the fact sheet, to operate, maintain and monitor those pollution control and water conservation systems.

Issues such as what counties where mining occurs do with the land after it is reclaimed and where the state gets money to deal with environmental problems connected to phosphate mining and processing resulted in the 2003 state Legislature increasing the severance tax the industry pays.

The increase, which the industry proposed, helps pay for reclaiming old mined lands and dealing with issues such as cleaning and releasing the acidic water in the ponds on top of the three phosphogypsum stack at Piney Point in Manatee County, which was abandoned when Mulberry Corporation went bankrupt in 2001.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) estimates it will cost the state about $160 million to close the stack at Piney Point and the two in Mulberry in Polk County. The stacks in Mulberry, which the company also abandoned, are being closed with the help of Mosaic Company (formerly Cargill Crop Nutrition). DEP agreed to pay the company $20 million and allow it to acquire facilities at the Mulberry Plant site in return for closing that two-stack system. DEP has said that it would have cost the state at least $30 million more to close the stack system itself.

The increased severance tax would also help counties impacted by mining operations. They were slated to receive a substantial increase in funding. Counties, such as Hardee County, that are trying to find income-generating uses for mined and reclaimed land would also have received help defining what such uses may be.

The phosphate industry also impacts the state in other ways.

For example, the millions of tons of phosphate and phosphate-related materials that are shipped through the Port of Tampa each year contribute significantly to making the port the state’s largest in tonnage shipped and about the 10th largest in the nation.

“Phosphates were, by far, the most important outbound commodity, accounting for 90 percent of the port’s outbound tonnage. More than 10.7 million tons of phosphate products were exported through the Port of Tampa in 2001,” according to The Contribution of the Port of Tampa to the Tampa Bay and Florida Economies in 2001prepared for the Tampa Port Authority, by the Pennsylvania-based Business Research and Economic Advisors (BREA), November 2002. Other major bulk commodities include cement, limestone, citrus pellets, and aggregate.

The BREA report also stated that the “economic contribution of locally produced export goods was primarily related to the mining and manufacture of phosphates and related agricultural chemicals. Essentially all of the phosphate chemical and rock production was produced for export from the region. Consequently, the entire production value, jobs and income of these commodities were directly related to the port of Tampa.”

Producing such outbound commodities contributed 6,719 jobs to the Tampa Bay Region in 2001 and 5,544 of these were related to the phosphate industry, according to the study.