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 on Wednesday, 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 14,000 acres. Actual work would be a couple of more years down the road.

These terms were brokered before Terrance E. Schmidt, a Jacksonville lawyer specializing in dispute resolutions. Wednesday’s 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 experts, 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 14,000 acres, said Donald Conn, the county’s attorney handling the negotiations on Wednesday. Schmidt, Conn said, “got us through (to) a settlement.”

Once those terms are on paper, Schmidt will sign off and the agreement goes before the DeSoto Board of County Commissioners. The five-member group will likely vote to accept those recommendations on April 23. The hearing is at 6:30 p.m.

“We’re pleased at the progress that was made yesterday and we look forward to the commission’s review of the recommended settlement,” said Jackie Barron, Mosaic’s Public Affairs manager. “We continue to believe that Mosaic will be a strong community partner in DeSoto for generations to come.”


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