Florida's Phosphate Business
Phosphate is Florida's third largest industry, after tourism and agriculture...
IMC-Agrico produced phosphate-based agricultural fertilizers and animal feed supplements which were used by farmers around the world. Some was used in a variety of consumer products including soft drinks, toothpaste, film, light bulbs and vitamins...
A Brief History of Florida's Phosphate Business
by Donald E. Sheppard
Florida has been surface mined for phosphate for the last 120 years. With the coming of Florida's railroads to haul it to ships in 1885, rock phosphate, the purest variety, was mined north and south of Dunnellon on Florida's "Rock Phosphate Ridge." Some was dredged (above) at Dunnellon from the Withlacoochee River: where the Rock Phosphate Ridge had been "cut" tens-of-thousands of years ago by water backed-up in the giant swamps to the east. Most rock phosphate, however, was mined on the surface of the ridge...
...by first removing the "overburden" to expose the rock (pictured at left) then blasting the giant rocks into pieces so they could be hauled out in mule carts then placed onto railroad cars. Most were taken to Tampa to ships for transport throughout the world. Felled pine trees were removed to build those ships.
At the turn of the Century (1900), pebble phosphate was discovered 25 feet beneath the surface in Polk County. Not as pure as rock phosphate, but it was much easier to mine and closer to Tampa. That business continues to this day. The overburden forms hills; the mines form lakes (pictured at top). Well over 130,000 acres of West Central Florida have been surface mined.
Phosphate Hazardous Waste Penalty in 2015: $2 billion
Hernando de Soto's 1539 Discovery of this Plain of Guacoco