The conflict that brings us here arises when the earth is disturbed and the environment in which we live is threatened. . . . On the one hand are the corporations who mine phosphate reserves in Florida—their intentions are based on the argument that an ever-shrinking agrarian base in America must have fertilizer to remain effective and productive. On the other hand are the individuals and groups who oppose that mining and their argument is based upon the contention that such mining is too destructive of a unique and very fragile ecosystem.
By the year 2000, phosphate companies will have mined over 160,000 acres of Florida land. At the present rate, only one third of that land will be reclaimed or in the reclamation process - leaving over 100,000 acres stripped of all vegetation and natural contours and posing potential health and environmental hazards. To complicate the scenario, current financial woes of Florida's phosphate industry are forcing several companies into bankruptcy court. Many fear these bankrupt companies will breach their obligation to reclaim mined lands.
This note will analyze whether Florida's financially burdened phosphate industry can employ bankruptcy law to escape its obligation to reclaim lands. Although courts have not specifically addressed the issue, bankruptcy case law relating to the obligation of hazardous waste cleanup indicates how courts will likely treat the obligation to reclaim mined lands. This note will evaluate legal commentators' proposed resolutions and comparable legislation of other states. This note concludes by proposing legislation to ensure compliance with Florida phosphate reclamation obligations.