Plymouth-based Mosaic Co. could temporarily reopen an idled Florida phosphate mine under an agreement it has reached with environmental groups that opposed the mine's expansion.

The mine, a key component to Mosaic's phosphate fertilizer production, shut down in early September after a federal judge ruled expansion of the mine would likely violate the federal Clean Water Act.

The Sierra Club and two other environmental groups had sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, contesting a wetlands permit it issued for the expansion of Mosaic's mine in Fort Meade, Fla.

The environmental groups asked for the expansion to be halted, and U.S. District Court Judge Henry Lee Adams obliged with a preliminary injunction in August.

Mosaic has said that without the expansion, the company had to idle the mine because its existing reserves are largely played out. But an agreement with the environmental groups this week would allow mining to proceed on 200 acres of the 10,583-acre proposed expansion.

Mining the 200 acres should take about four months, meaning the agreement is a Band-Aid solution. The company would resume mining within 30 days of court approval, which is necessary for the agreement to take effect, Mosaic spokesman Rob Litt said.

Mosaic, 64 percent owned by Cargill Inc., bills itself as the world's largest phosphate producer, and the Fort Meade mine accounts for about 30 percent of its phosphate output.

With the mine out of commission, Mosaic has been forced to buy more phosphate on the open market, a more expensive proposition.

Once the mine starts up again, it still won't operate at full production, Litt said.

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003