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Overflow crowd attends Mosaic phosphate mine hearing

MANATEE COUNTY – Before an overflow crowd of hundreds of supporters and opponents, Mosaic Fertilizer presented its case to the Manatee County Commission on Thursday for an expansion of its phosphate mining operations in the Duette-Myakka area.

The company extracts and processes phosphate ore to make fertilizer. It contends that its product is essential to agriculture and the food supply. Its critics counter that the mining process harms the environment.

Sixty-eight people registered to speak during the public hearing, which resumes Monday. Participants reportedly started arriving for the 9 a.m. Thursday meeting at the county administration building in downtown Bradenton at 6:30 a.m.

County Attorney Bill Clague told commissioners they are not to consider "political or ideological arguments" or "personal attacks" in their decision. "It has to be based on the evidence that relates to our standards."

Most of the public hearing was spent on testimony by Mosaic executives and consultants and by county planning and environmental staff.