PCS Phosphate may now have
another chance to prove
its environmental stewardship

Published 12:26 am Friday, June 5, 2009

By Staff
PCS Phosphate may have finally ended its 81/2-year struggle.
That’s right: It’s taken the mining company that long to obtain a permit it needs to expand its operation in Aurora. On Wednesday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ office in Wilmington granted the critical permit that should allow PCS to continue mining at the site for years to come.
That’s great news for Beaufort County and for the mine-and-plant complex’s employees and their families.
The Environmental Protection Agency, which recently required the Corps of Engineers’ Washington, D.C., office to review the company’s permit application, could still appeal the Corps decision. The EPA has 10 days to begin the appeal process, but as of Thursday it appeared to be more conciliatory than it had been before ordering the extra review.
If the EPA decides not to appeal — which is our hope — the company could acquire all other state permits it needs and begin mining the new areas by the end of summer, said Ross Smith, PCS manager of environmental affairs.
Though Smith was pleased with the decision, overall, he didn’t completely endorse it. He said the final version of the permit fell well short of the company’s original hopes and that because many potential mining areas were deemed untouchable, “the company is going to be leaving a lot of phosphate in the ground.”
The Southern Environmental Law Center — which has banded with a coalition of environmental groups to steadfastly oppose PCS expansion — was not pleased with the corps’ decision. SELC lawyer Derb Carter had not had a chance to see the actual written decision, but from the information he had, he was less than optimistic.
“Our expectations are very low that the company will do anything meaningful to address the wetlands destruction and damage to the Pamlico River that will result from this permit,” he said Wednesday night.
Let’s hope he’s wrong.
If expanded mining does proceed, we’re confident PCS will remember all it went through to gain the permit and hopefully behave with the environment in mind as it moves forward.