Published 3:01 pm Tuesday, April 14, 2009

By Staff
Amazing how rumors keep spreading! For years now, Beaufort County residents have been told that environmentalists want to shut down the PCS Phosphate mine. Now, where does that assertion come from?
Anyone who lives in Beaufort County or respects the needs of its residents recognizes the importance of keeping the largest employer in the region viable for as long as possible. Anyone who lives in or knows the county also recognizes that the greatest, single asset the county has is its beauty, which is completely dependent on the health of its incredible natural environment.
PCS Phosphate makes no secret of the fact that even if its phosphate mine were allowed to mine as large an area as it wanted, it will have depleted the ore it can mine in Beaufort County within approximately 40 years using today’s mining methods. Then what? How many Beaufort County jobs will be lost when the mine closes down in 40 years? No one seems to be talking about nor planning for that job loss which will have nothing to do with environmentalists.
When do we begin to hold a company like PCS Phosphate accountable? Because it is our largest employer, do we turn a blind eye to its desire for maximum monetary gain over responsible protection of Beaufort County’s natural resources? The Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, as its name implies, is a Canadian-owned company accountable to its shareholders. It is very likely that most PCS Phosphate shareholders do not live around here. Their concern is their pocketbooks, not the future of a distant county or, perhaps, a far-away state or country.
During the permitting process, it has been the mining company, not the environmental community, that has repeatedly delayed the process. Now, that the mining being done under the current permit is closer to completion, delays in acquiring the next permit are being blamed on environmentalists.
The Environmental Protection Agency is looking carefully, as it should, at the company’s permit request that the N.C. Division of Water Quality was so quick to approve. If granted, this permit will mean the greatest destruction of wetlands ever officially sanctioned in the history of North Carolina. The permit under which PCS Phosphate currently operates allowed the greatest number of wetlands to succumb to the mine to date. What a drawing card for attracting people and other businesses to Beaufort County! And this without mention of the fact that the company’s track record on reclamation is slow at best; the contents of the reclamation material environmentally questionable at worst.
Contrary to rumors, environmentally conscious residents of Beaufort County are not trying to shut down the mine. Nor do we want even one PCS Phosphate job to be lost. I firmly believe that PCS Phosphate will not have to fire any of its employees at the Beaufort County facility because of permit modifications for which environmental groups advocate.
Any job losses would more likely be caused by market conditions outside of Beaufort County. If anyone says differently, it is so that “Goliath” — PCS — can accomplish 100 percent of its monetary goal at any cost. “David” — people who care about the future of Beaufort County for their children and grandchildren — will have the price to pay.