PCS Phosphate reclaims a part of disturbed area
State determines land returned to natural statei in a ‘satisfactory’ manner
By DAN PARSONS
PCS Phosphate took another significant step toward offsetting the environmental impact of its Aurora mine this week, according to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Department officials recently inspected 702 acres of the Charles tract clay pond reclamation area and determined the land has been “satisfactorily reclaimed.”
The company has been released from further reclamation responsibilities in those 702 acres.
The 2,280-acre Charles tract was used for disposing clay that was a byproduct of the company’s mining operation, which began in 1965.
The company began reclamation of the land, east of the existing mine and South Creek, in the mid-1980s, according to Gwynn.
In July 1999, the Division of Land Resources released 1,252 acres at the Charles tract, and the company is working on reclaiming the remaining 326 acres.
To deem the land reclaimed, DENR considers several environmental factors while inspecting the tract, Gwynn said.
The reclaimed areas are inhabited by shrubs, grasses, planted trees and open water, which provide wildlife habitat, according to a statement from PCS Phosphate released Monday.
Gwynn said that prior to the land’s release, PCS Phosphate employees have seen deer, turkey, bear, bobcats, quail, heron, waterfowl, hawks, songbirds, turtles and freshwater fish on the Charles tract.
PCS Phosphate is awaiting a decision by the Army Corps of Engineers on a mine-continuation permit the company wants to expand its Aurora operation. The company submitted its application for the permit in 2001. The company’s current mining permits require it to lessen its mining operation’s environmental effects through reclamation and mitigation. The new permitted, if granted, would require the same things.
Reclamation — as with the Charles tract — involves returning disturbed land to its prior natural state. PCS Phosphate also practices offsite mitigation — purchasing land that has been drained for agricultural uses and returning it to its natural wetlands state.
PCS Phosphate announced in November it had purchased the approximately 718-acre Bay City Farm, which is east of South Creek and the mine area. In the early 1960s, the Bay City Farm property was cleared, drained and converted from wetlands to farmland.
The company plans to restore that tract to its original land contours, allowing the stormwater on the property to return to its historic flow pattern into upper South Creek.