Make us your home page

Rock mining is digging to the bottom of the barrel for economic recovery

Maybe you've heard about the next innovative, exciting chapter of economic development in Hernando:

Rock Mining!

Yep, nothing can enhance the county's curb appeal like dynamite and bulldozers gobbling up our famous ridges. For attracting new investment and well-to-do, forward-thinking residents, you just can't beat tearing away topsoil, grass and trees — the nasty "overburden" that gets in the way of digging out rock.

Maybe you don't see what the big deal is. Maybe, like a lot of people around here, you never noticed the mines. That's because they're in areas of the county that were remote after World War II, when the industry really got going here. With the land stripped of life, no surprise, it's still remote.

But now there's a plan for a mine along State Road 50, just a few miles west of Brooksville — one of the main gateways to the city and one of the county's main commercial corridors. In fact, it's just across SR 50 from Brooksville Regional Hospital.

As reported by Times writer Barbara Behrendt on Thursday, members of Brooksville's business elite — Tommy Bronson, Jim Kimbrough, Joe Mason and Robert Buckner — have long owned most of this 730 acres of woods and pasture, which was previously designated for residential use and a regional mall.

They propose moving the mall site slightly to the west and have asked the county for permission to allow Mexico-based Cemex to remove the rock over the next 20 years. According to Bronson, there's still demand for hard rock, which is now very rare in Florida. If we don't mine it here, he said, we'll have to import it from outside the state or country.

The landowners or their families will still want to develop it once the rock is gone, he said, and will make sure the land is left in good enough shape to market. The mining property that fronts SR 50 is covered with dense woods that should block views of the operation without requiring a high, unsightly berm. And, finally, we desperately need the jobs.

No doubt about that. Still, when it comes to economic development, I can't help but think this is the bottom of the barrel.

Profits will go to a large, multinational corporation, not to local owners who might spend them here. I've heard of good examples of reclamation in the county, but when I toured the Florida Rock Industries mine a few years ago, I saw unreclaimed moonscape next to supposedly reclaimed land — which was basically a moonscape with a few rows of dying saplings.

The best rock is in the highest land, so the hills will be gone forever. In other words, degradation is unavoidable with rock mining, no matter how many loads of soil are trucked in.

That's a long-term consequence. In the short term, think about the hope surrounding the hospital, the way it was supposed to be a hub for the health care industry, the only part of the economy showing steady growth. The city of Brooksville was so excited about the prospects for this part of the county, it ran water lines to it. What will the mine do for this potentially high-quality development? Nothing good, I'd say.

One other question: What happens when owners of truly innovative businesses come looking for someplace to expand — someplace clean and attractive? They'll see the mine on our doorstep and think we're stuck in the 1950s.

Rock mining is digging to the bottom of the barrel for economic recovery 05/26/11 [Last modified: Thursday, May 26, 2011 7:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. To catch a poacher: Florida wildlife officers set up undercover gator farm sting


    To catch a ring of poachers who targeted Florida's million-dollar alligator farming industry, state wildlife officers created the ultimate undercover operation.

    To catch a ring of poachers who targeted Florida's million-dollar alligator farming industry, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission set up an undercover operation. They created their own alligator farm, complete with plenty of real, live alligators, watched over by real, live undercover wildlife officers. It also had hidden video cameras to record everything that happened. That was two years ago, and on Wednesday wildlife officers announced that they arrested nine people on  44 felony charges alleging they broke wildlife laws governing alligator harvesting, transporting eggs and hatchlings across state lines, dealing in stolen property, falsifying records, racketeering and conspiracy. The wildlife commission released these photos of alligators, eggs and hatchlings taken during the undercover operation. [Courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]
  2. CBO analysis: 23 million would lose health coverage under House-passed bill


    WASHINGTON — The Republican health care bill that passed the House earlier this month would nearly double the number of Americans without health insurance over the next decade, according to a new analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

    Demonstrators protests the passage of a House Republican health care bill, outside the the Capitol in Washington, on May 4. The House took the unusual step of voting on the American Health Care Act before the Congressional Budget Office could assess it. That analysis was released Thursday and it showed the bill would cause 23 million fewer people to have health insurance by 2026. Many additional consumers would see skimpier health coverage and higher deductibles, the budget office projected.
  3. Florida Specialty Insurance acquires Pinellas Park's Mount Beacon Insurance


    Tens of thousands of homeowners who were pushed out of Citizens Property Insurance for a private carrier since 2014 are finding themselves changing insurance companies yet again.

  4. Marijuana extract Epidiolex helps some kids with epilepsy, study shows


    A medicine made from marijuana, without the stuff that gives a high, cut seizures in kids with a severe form of epilepsy in a study that strengthens the case for more research into pot's possible health benefits.

    An employee checks a plant at LeafLine Labs, a medical marijuana production facility in Cottage Grove, Minn. [Associated Press (2015)]
  5. St. Pete Economic Development Corporation lures marketing firm MXTR to town

    Economic Development

    St. Petersburg Economic Development Corporation has lured its first big catch to St. Petersburg — MXTR Automation. The digital marketing company announced Wednesday that it will fill 20 "high-wage" creative positions within the next 18 months, as well as open an office in downtown St. Petersburg this year.