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Baker County community takes on mining giant over water use

Board votes in favor of the mining extension

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BAKER COUNTY, Fla. – A dozen people attended a meeting Tuesday night to ask county leaders to oppose a plan they believe will put more strain on Baker County’s water shortage.

DuPont Mining was approved to get more land to mine. But opponents contend the move will use more water. The current mining property borders County Road 228.

As the meeting drew to a close, James Croft, who is on the Board of Commissioners, asked how much water the current mine uses.

The answer was roughly 68 million gallons on average, every year.

Representatives with the company said expanding the project wouldn’t use any more water than it already does.

Still, members of the community voiced their concerns, saying they fear the wells, wetlands and aquifers would disappear or dry up because of this plan -- especially because of the current water shortage.

“(We’re) already in a drought, so they're going to take all of the water that we got left,” said Cheryl Dugger, who has lived on Trailridge River for more than 35 years. “We've had three wells that have become dry and we had to replace them since the mining has started.”

But on the flip side, the company said the plan is positive: It will add 80 jobs and increase revenue in the county until the project is over in about five years.

Ultimately, the board voted in favor of the mining extension, saying it has confidence in Chemours, which is the plant involved. The extension is in the county’s best interest and won't have a deep impact on the county’s environment, the board determined.

“We are thankful to the county commissioners for this opportunity to continue to help (the) economy grow with Baker County,” said Clement Hilton, a plant manager at Chemours. “We have been good stewards and we want to continue to be good stewards of the land and continue good economic development here in Baker County.”
 
Next, Chemours will have to pay a $20,000 permit fee to start the process, but that cost could increase.

The Chemours company representatives said they use roughly 55 million gallons to 81 million gallons annually, which is how they reached an average of $68 million a year.