BARTOW – After six years of effort, Lance McNeill — the president of Mineral Development, LLC — said he and his staff are almost ready to begin construction on a $70 million “eco-friendly” phosphate reclamation plant at Clear Springs, east of Bartow.
Once McNeill and his staff finalize a $90 million bond with the Polk County Industrial Development Authority, possibly by the end of October, local contractors can start building.
Phosphate mining dates back to 1945 at Clear Springs. Back then, miners could not remove all of the phosphate from the mining “tailings” or mining leftovers.
When construction is complete in around two years, plant staff will start using recycled water and electricity to remove all of the phosphate from the mining “tailings” found on the 4,400 acres of land at Clear Springs.
The ramifications could also be significant for acreage in the future.
While no residential development can be built on the land now, the thought is that over the next two decades the 4,400 acres will be restored enough to develop, should the land owner decide to do so.
Because these miners will be recycling solid waste, the $90 million bond is tax-free, McNeill said.
Fifty-five full time employees will man the plant when it opens, which could generate approximately an additional 50 or jobs at competitive wages.
“This is the most significant project the corporation has ever done in terms of size and magnitude in our 60 year history,” McNeill said.
McNeill said there are thousands of additional acres that could be restored in the future – both at Clear Springs and in other parts of Polk County.
Bartow City Manager George Long called the development a “win-win” for all concerned. The plant owner can make a profit, Bartow residents will profit from the sale of electricity, the land owner will benefit from mining rights and cleaner land, Long explained.
McNeill added that even area residents in environmental protection groups have expressed support for the plan.
“FDEP (Florida Department of Environmental Protection staff) loves us,” McNeill said.
McNeill said this process has been successful in Polk County in the past and that he has confidence that this process could be beneficial to other land for generations.
The plant will use about as much electricity as what a third of all Bartow residents use, or approximately 8 million kilowatt hours per month.
Long said the plant will use the electricity to generate around 1 million pounds of processed phosphate per year.