On Friday, July 13th ,2007, in Miami-Dade County, Florida, U.S. District Judge W. Hoeveler, ruled that Tarmac, a subsidiary of the Titan Group of companies, must cease rock mining in some areas of the southeastern “Lake Belt” region of Florida as of Tuesday, July 17th ,2007, until the Army Corps of Engineers completes a requested Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). The SEIS is expected within the next six months.
The ruling impacts all the mining companies operating in the Lake Belt. It orders the three companies, including Tarmac, located close to the wellfield, which supplies water for Miami-Dade county, to cease mining. It further vacates the permits of all other mining companies operating in the Lake Belt when the Corps issues the SEIS. At that time, all affected companies, including Titan, will need to reapply for new permits.
For Titan, the decision affects a significant part of the Pennsuco quarry, which supplies raw materials to the over-2-million-ton Pennsuco cement plant, in addition to selling over 6 million tons of aggregates per annum to the Florida market.
Titan believes the decision is based on inaccurate analysis and plans to appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Water supply to Miami-Dade is protected by the current water treatment plants and it has been scientifically demonstrated that mining activities do not damage the quality of the water supply.
At the same time, Titan is working with federal, state and local authorities to reduce, to the extent possible, the impact on Florida’s economy and the building materials industry. Titan has developed a two year contingency plan to maintain production at its Pennsuco cement plant. The impact on the company’s Florida aggregates business will depend on the extent to which reduced volumes and higher supply and transportation costs will be offset by higher market prices.
In 1997 the Florida Legislature adopted the Miami-Dade County Lake Belt Plan, covering a roughly 57,000-acre area between Miami and the Everglades National Park, aiming to allow efficient recovery of limestone, while at the same time promoting the social and economic welfare of the community and protecting the environment. In 2002, the Army Corps of Engineers issued permits to several companies that authorize dredging of wetlands in the Lake Belt for mining-related purposes, while requiring the permit holders to pay mitigation fees to fund the acquisition and restoration of a larger area in the Everglades. Today, the Lake Belt is the source of almost half of Florida’s coarse aggregates and is vital to Florida’s economy and the building materials industry.
In March 2006, the U.S. district Court Judge Hoeveler, of the Southern district of Florida ruled that the mining permits had been improperly issued and remanded the permitting process to the U.S. army Corps of Engineers for further review and consideration. The most recent decision follows a hearing which ended in January 2007.