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Special magistrate Terrance E. Schmidt oversaw the dispute between DeSoto County and the fertilizer giant Mosaic. Schmidt is a Jacksonville lawyer with an accumulation of some 4,000 dispute resolution cases.

The future for phosphate mining in DeSoto County is a little clearer now.

Following a dispute resolution hearing last week, here’s what’s been decided: Mosaic Fertilizer will delay its mine permit plans in DeSoto for at least four years, and that’s if market conditions and other factors line up in the Fortune 500 firm’s favor.

And DeSoto County over that same period will hold public workshops. Those will allow Mosaic to clarify its mission, to detail the process and its post-mining plans, and to address concerns of environmentalists and neighbors that dog the firm as it moves its mining around Florida.

And then in 2023, Mosaic can return to DeSoto County to apply for permits and zoning that, if granted, would allow the firm to mine phosphate on some 18,000 acres. Actual work would begin years down the road.

These terms were brokered before Terrance E. Schmidt, a Jacksonville lawyer specializing in dispute resolutions. The April 3 public hearing gave Mosaic the chance to air its grievances dating to July, when the DeSoto Board of County Commissioners denied rezoning of farmland to industrial mining. Mosaic had asked for the dispute process to avoid a lawsuit for the loss of its property rights. Schmidt listened to Mosaic lawyers, comments from those living near Mosaic’s proposed mines, and from DeSoto County staff.

Ultimately, Mosaic and DeSoto County made a deal to stage the public workshops and to place timelines on when the firm would return with rezoning, operating permit and a masterplan to mine its 18,000 acres, said Donald Conn, the county’s attorney handling the negotiations. Mosaic and DeSoto County should have a deal by tomorrow, Conn said, with commissioners voting whether to accept the terms on April 23. Those commissioners decided Tuesday to vote at their 3 p.m. public meeting.

“The mediation session marked a significant milestone in our continued conversation with DeSoto County,” said Jackie Barron, Mosaic’s Public Affairs manager. “At the same time, an agreement reached in mediation will avoid costly and contentious litigation.”

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