Pressure is building on the Hernando County Council in Florida ahead of a vote next week on whether to allow Mexican construction company Cemex to build an open-pit line mine in the county capital of Brooksville.
Campaigners are claiming that the project would be of little economic benefit to the county and that the silica dust and water pollution produced could significantly threaten the health of local inhabitants.
Nature Coast Conservation Neighbors Against Mining Project president DeeVon Quirolo wrote in an opinion piece in the Tampa Bay Times: “The chronic blasting and noise from open-pit lime rock mining, property damage from vibration waves and tremors, reduced property values, unsightly landscapes, health threats from silica dust and the degradation of drinking water, especially for residents on wells, will all reduce quality of life. No wonder there is widespread opposition.”
Quirolo went on to explain that Cemex’s proposed project would threaten the removal of vegetation and topsoil from 375.9 acres of wild forest, which would expose water sources to contamination through polluted groundwater.
Furthermore, the proposed site is within the Weeki Wachee and Peck Sink watersheds, which create a steep incline at the site, exposing it and the surrounding area to flooding once mining operations commence. Hernando County Council has already invested $2.4m into protecting water quality in the area and campaigners have suggested that the threats posed by the mine would undermine this investment.
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Cemex’s project has already received the approval of the Hernando County Commission, which agreed to the company’s request to change the planned 730-acre residential and commercial development in the county to a mining and commercial project.
Count Commission Chairman Steve Champion said: “I just want to remind people that this is a minority in the county. This county is 180,000-something people, and based on the voting record, 71% voted for pro-business candidates that are for economic growth. Their number one concern is economy and jobs.’’
This is Cemex’s third attempt to begin operations in the county, following similar bids in 2011 and 2014 that were rejected by the Planning and Zoning Commission.