Florida’s phosphate dilemma started a lifetime ago when fate and the Army Corps of Engineers happened to uncover a valuable resource called phosphate (4). Little did Floridians know, the Florida phosphate industry was born.
The Florida phosphate industry can trace its roots back to Coronet Phosphate Company started in 1906. (4) The industry was small for many years because phosphate mining at that time was back breaking work with picks, shovels, and wheelbarrows in mosquito infested areas. During the middle of the 20th century (2), phosphate mining changed forever, with the introduction of the drag line.
The mining story continues in the 1950’s by the Smith-Douglas Corp. located in Norfolk, Virginia until about 1960. Agrico Chemical Co. bought and operated the phosphate mines until 1973. At that time, Gardinier, a French mining company purchased and operated Florida’s major phosphate mines. (1)
I remember Gardinier phosphate trucks passing through the town of Brandon, Florida on State Road Highway 60 in the 1970’s. In Southwest Central Florida, Highway 60 is the main truck route from the largest phosphate mines in Bartow and Mulberry, and other sites as well, to the shipping Port of Tampa, FL.
In 1985, Cargill Fertilizer, Inc. bought and operated the phosphate mines until 1994 when the Mosaic Co. purchased the phosphate mines and still owns them today.