The complete 565-page permit application by Twin Pines Minerals, SAS-2018-00554, is now on the WWALS website.
News about it is all over North America, with more coming out daily.
You can go ahead and send in comments to the Army Corps of Engineers or to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
You can retrieve the complete application from this link. It is quite large, 326 megabytes, so it may take a while to transfer.
Thanks to the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) for obtaining the complete application.
If you know of a story, editorial, etc. that is not in here, please send it to email@example.com.
Jamie Ertle, WTOC, 20 September 2019,
EPA weighs in on mining proposal for Okefenokee Swamp,
The Army Corps of Engineers gave people a chance to comment on the proposal. Last week, that comment period ended. According to their website, more than 20,000 comments were made about mining, and it wasn't just residents or concerned citizens. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency weighed in on the proposal.
In part, the letter to the Army Corps of Engineers read, “...the EPA believes that there is potential for this project as proposed to cause adverse effects to water quality and the life stages of aquatic life or other wildlife dependent on aquatic systems.”
The executive director of Georgia River Network says this was a step in the right direction for the environment.
“For EPA to come out and stand strong is just thrilling," Rena Peck Stricker said. “Georgia River Network and other groups, we feel like we're in the eye of the storm right now, and it's important to keep the pressure and keep the public engaged, because, in the end, it's not an environmental impact statement that will stop a project that could be harmful to the environment to people and wildlife. It's public outcry.”...
Mary Landers, Savannahnow, 19 September 2019,
Agencies: Application for mining near Okefenokee incomplete,
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division made their written comments in response to a Clean Water Act permit application the company filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Savannah.
“Based on the limited available information, the applicant has not demonstrated that the proposed project will not result in significant degradation, including individual or cumulative effects to fish and wildlife; ecosystem diversity, productivity and stability; and recreational, aesthetic and economic values,” the EPA stated in a three-page comment from the water division director for Region 4 based in Atlanta. “Excavation and reclamation of the proposed mine area may alter local or regional groundwater hydrology. Changes in water table elevations and the rate and direction of shallow ground water movements as a result of mining and reclamation may alter hydrologic conditions in the Okefenokee NWR.”
As a result, “the EPA finds that this project, as proposed, may result in substantial and unacceptable impacts to aquatic resources of national importance...”
In its comment, the Georgia EPD concurred with EPA, saying that the documentation for this project has “not yet been prepared, completed and distributed.” The permit application cites a series of hydrogeologic reports that are not yet completed.
“Understanding that groundwater hydrologic effects associated with the Twin Pines project have been a central concern expressed by federal resource/regulatory agencies, NGOs (e.g. the Suwannee Riverkeeper and Georgia River Network), and the public at large, we respectfully submit that the (Clean Water Act) permit application as submitted thus far is not complete since it lacks full information and findings regarding hydrogeologic factors on site and post-project effects to hydrogeology/groundwater,” states the EPD's Sept. 12 comment from its wetlands manager. It concludes it is “inappropriate and premature” to close the comment window.
As the EPD noted, many individuals and environmental groups called for more information to evaluate the proposal. Jessica Morehead, interim director of the Sierra Club Georgia Chapter, reiterated that call in light of the agencies' letters.
“We urge the Corps to deny this permit application, or at the very least, force Twin Pines to submit a full application, use responsible scientists to prepare an environmental impact statement, and give the public the opportunity to review all this information and make their voices heard,” she wrote in an email. “The Corps cannot rush this decision. The Okefenokee is one of the most important natural habitats in the world and it must not be put at risk.”
Stanley Dunlap The Georgia Recorder, Valdosta Daily Times, 19 September 2019,
Thousands voice Okefenokee mining concerns,
The letter from the Southern Environmental Law Center and Defenders of Wildlife and other conservation groups criticizes Twin Pines for not releasing more details about how mining would impact the Okefenoke and its surrounding ecosystem.
The letter is co-signed by 14 other conservation organizations including the Sierra Club, Environment Georgia, National Wildlife Refuge Association, Wilderness Society and Wilderness Watch, as well as the statewide riverkeeper organization and some of its chapters.
That's not the way it works. The nine Riverkeepers of Georgia, and all Waterkeepers worldwide, are members of the Waterkeeper Alliance. Those of us in Georgia happen to also be members of Georgia River Network. -jsq
Given what is already known, Twin Pines has not and cannot show that the proposed project will not have an unacceptable impact,” said Bill Sapp, SELC senior attorney, in an email to the Georgia Recorder last week. “If the Corps is not willing to do that, it should, at a minimum require Twin Pines to do an environmental impact statement to ensure that very real risks to one of the world's most unique ecosystems are not overlooked.”
SELC PR September 19, 2019,
Laundry list of reasons why mining next to the Okefenokee Swamp is a bad idea:
SELC and partners urge Corps to deny weak permit,
“Twin Pines has failed to provide critical information and, from the information it has provided, we can predict a train wreck of adverse effects,” says Senior Attorney Bill Sapp....
Says Senior Attorney Megan Huynh, “If the Corps is not willing to deny the permit, it should, at the very minimum, require Twin Pines to do an Environmental Impact Statement to ensure that the very real risks to one of the world's most unique ecosystems are not overlooked.”
- 2019-09-18: Nedra Rhone, AJC, September 18, 2019, Mining project could cause ‘unacceptable’ impact to Okefenokee says EPA.
- 2019-09-13: Nedra Rhone, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 13 September 2019, Mining proposal near Okefenokee draws more than 20K comments from public
- 2019-09-09: Mary Landers, SavannahNow, 9 September 2019, For Okefenokee supporters, proposed mine too close to refuge, with aerial video and still pictures.
Emma Hurt, WABE, September 3, 2019,
A Familiar Story, Different Details: The Latest Proposal To Mine The Okefenokee
Michael Lusk manages the refuge for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He said that's what people are looking for: “One of the reasons for sure that people come to visit the Okefenokee is because it's so big and wild, and quiet and dark. All those wonderful things that you just can't get many places anymore.”
Rena Peck Stricker, GRN E.D.,
Georgia River Network Confluence, 31 August 2019,
Mining Near the Okefenokee: A Bad Idea Then and Now,
Go to Georgia River Network’s webpage to learn more and submit your concerns to the Corps: https://garivers.org/priority-issues
- 2019-08-28: Gordon Jackson, The Brunswick News, 28 August 2019, Getting the aerial perspective on a titanium mining project
Suwannee Riverkeeper Fights to Protect Okefenokee Swamp from Titanium Strip Mine
Three times last week, Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman helped gather locals and organizations across Georgia, north Florida, and beyond to voice concerns about a proposed strip mine alongside the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Southern Georgia, home to the Okefenokee Swamp.
Twin Pines Minerals, LLC (TPM), an Alabama-based mining company, applied for permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Georgia Department of Environmental Protection to mine for titanium near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, which is the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers in Southern Georgia. The Suwannee flows south through Florida to the Gulf of Mexico, and the St. Marys becomes the border between Georgia and Florida on its way to the Atlantic.
John was quoted in the first news story about the mine, by Emily Jones of Georgia Public Broadcasting on July 15, “The most obvious thing that we really need is a real environmental impact statement. All we have so far is, ‘this is what the applicant said.'”
John S. Quarterman, before 2019-08-13 TPM meeting. L-r: Mark Lyons of Citizens Against Phosphate Mining, Alice Keyes of One Hundred Miles, Hilda Gilchrist of Our Santa Fe River (OSFR), Jim Tatum of OSFR and WWALS, Rena Peck Stricker of Georgia River Network, Mike Roth and Kristin Rubin of OSFR and WWALS, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper, Merillee Malwitz-Jipson of OSFR and WWALS.
- 2019-08-21: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 21 August 2019, Heavy mining facility proposed near Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder,20 August 2019,
Meetings last week surface debate: Could mining drain Okefenokee?,
...Rena Stricker, executive director of the Georgia River Network, was among the attendees of last week's meetings who said they are worried that the swamp could be drained by the mining.
“I'm very concerned that Trail Ridge, which serves as a dam for the Okefenokee, will be compromised so that the Okefenokee (swamp) itself could be drained,” said Rena Stricker, executive director of the Georgia River Network and one of the protesters Tuesday night
The company contends Trail Ridge is instead a hydraulic barrier to groundwater flow. At the ridge's high point the water flows east to the swamp and west to the St. Marys River.
So is Trail Ridge a natural dam to the swamp?
“It's not necessarily a dam,” said Fredrick Rich, a recently retired geology professor at Georgia Southern University. “The swamp would probably be there with or without Trail Ridge but the ridge almost certainly enhances the capability of the swamp's water supply to stay within the basin. “Any attempt to cut through Trail Ridge would certainly be destructive of the swamp,” he said....
- 2019-08-20: Mary Jo Dilonardo, Mother Nature News, 20 August 2019, Proposal to mine near Okefenokee Swamp raises old fears
2019-08-17: Jim Tatum, Our Santa Fe River, 17 August 2019,
Twin Pines Minerals Meeting a Disappointment,
The following description is by Mark Lyons, veteran and experienced mine opponent:
This event was like a 5th grade science fair except that 5th grade teachers probably would have had better answers than we received yesterday. I've never heard so many— probably, maybe, could, possibly, might, I'm not sure, you need to ask so ‘n so. Nothing like consulting firm employees who sit in an office all day and have never mined answering ‘mining’ questions!
We could add an “I don't know,” answer we got several times.
2019-08-16: Southern Environmental Law Center, 16 August 2019,
SELC shares Georgians’ concerns about proposed titanium mine near Okefenokee Swamp,
“We have serious concerns about Twin Pines Minerals' plans for a proposed mine in such close proximity to the Okefenokee Swamp, one of Georgia's most important natural treasures,” said Senior Attorney Bill Sapp. “Before moving forward with this application, it is critically important that Twin Pines, the Corps, and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division conduct more thorough studies to ensure that any mining activities would not result in harm to this special, world-renowned place.”
The proposal reminds many area residents of a similar plan from 20 years ago by DuPont Co. to put in a 38,000-acre mine along Trail Ridge. That plan generated so much public opposition that DuPont dropped the idea and donated about half of the proposed mine site to preservation.
Twin Pines has hired consultants who say they've studied the company's current plans and find it “environmentally responsible,” but those reports have not been made available to the Corps or the public at this time.
One of the actions SELC will be urging is that the Corps must demand a full Environmental Impact Statement for this project before even considering issuing a permit, as an independent, scientific review is a critical first step in ensuring there is no irrevocable harm to one of Georgia's most incredible environmental wonders.
Emily Jones, GPB, 15 August 2019,
Charlton County Backs Proposed Mining Near Okefenokee,
The Charlton County Commission Thursday evening unanimously voted to support the proposal to mine for heavy minerals near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
Charlton County Commissioners voted to support mining near the Okefenokee. The proclamation cited economic benefits to the county, including tax revenue and the 150 jobs promised in the permit application from Twin Pines Minerals.
It did note the project is still subject to approval by "any other authority having jurisdiction." That includes the Army Corps of Engineers....
In a letter sent before the county commission meeting, Suwan[n]ee Riverkeeper John Quarterman called the commission's vote "premature."
"While I understand that everyone wants jobs, I respectfully submit that far too many things are still unknown," Quarterman wrote.
Public comments at the meeting, following the vote, echoed that sentiment.
Only residents of Charlton County were allowed to speak, while others could submit comments on notecards. County officials said that was because of the large number of people present, in the interest of time and to gauge how many in attendance were county residents. All the seats in the commission meeting room were full, with several people standing in the back.
Resident Teresa Crawford grew emotional during her comments, comparing the possible economic benefits of the mine to those of the existing wildlife refuge.
"The economic impact of the Okefenokee swamp — we have a jewel out there," she said, noting that people from other states and other countries visit the refuge. "If it gets destroyed, that economic impact is gone."
Chief Redhawk of the Cherokee of Georgia and his assistant, Jane Winkler, also spoke. They questioned how many of the promised jobs would be local and reiterated the concern that mining could harm the swamp.
After the meeting, Commissioner Drew Jones said he would not support a project that would devastate the Okefenokee. But he said Twin Pines has plans for environmental protections — and Charlton County needs well-paying jobs.
"In this community, we've got a prison, we've got a landfill, as far as employers," Jones said. "The Board of Education employs 200, ballpark pay $18 an hour. So these mines, they can improve quality of life."
The Corps is accepting public comment through Sept. 12.
Bits of that GPB story were picked up by AP.
Dave Williams, Atlanta Business Chronicle,
Georgia Conservancy raising concerns about proposed mining near Okefenokee Swamp
...The Georgia Conservancy is asking the Army Corps to hold a public hearing on the permit application. The federal agency has agreed to extend the public comment period on the project an additional 30 days, from Aug. 13 to Sept. 12.
- 2019-08-14: Mary Landers, SavannahNow, 14 August 2019, Company explains its Okefenokee mining plans. Includes picture of Mark Lyons' "Welcome to the Dog and Pony Show" t-shirt, and a claim by Twin Pines Consultant Robert Holt, a hydrogeologist at the University of Mississippi: “We plan to publish our results in peer reviewed journals and that’s the gold standard in science.” That's nice. Why don't they withdraw their mining application until that study is published? -jsq
- 2019-08-14: From the Ground Up, YouTube, 14 August 2019, TTL Twin Pines Minerals.
Alexander Osiadacz, FirstCoast News,
Published: 4:56 PM EDT August 14, 2019,
Updated: 6:16 PM EDT August 14, 2019,
Public concern over proposed titanium strip mine near Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge:
Just outside the boundary of the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge is where Twin Pines, an Alabama mining company wants to setup shop.
FOLKSTON, Ga. — A titanium deposit is at the center of a major debate in southeast Georgia.
The site borders a national wildlife refuge and it's where a company wants to put a mine. Over a hundred people packed a question-and-answer meeting Tuesday hosted by that company.
“This place is priceless and it's irreplaceable,” Christian Hunt, Southeast Program Associate at Defenders of Wildlife said.
Just outside the boundary of the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge is where Twin Pines, an Alabama mining company wants to set up shop, digging for a resource that could be worth a lot of money.
Titanium dioxide — a heavy metal used to make white pigment — is abundant in the sands. Locals and environmentalists are concerned.
“At risk is a wetland of global importance," Hunt said. "This is a fully functional, vibrant ecosystem.”
Hunt was among those who attended Tuesday night's public meeting with mining representatives.
A statement from the company says it has identified species that could be affected where a habitat was identified, a targeted survey was conducted.
“My primary conclusion that I drew from last night is that there are too many unknowns,” Hunt said.
The topic has also drawn the attention of U.S. Representative Earl "Buddy" Carter, who said his staff is still sorting through the facts.
“How do you balance business with the environment and that's very difficult sometimes," Carter said. "This has been tried before and it's failed, but perhaps there is new technology out there that would now make it safer."....
Gordon Jackson, Brunswick News, 14 August 2019,
Twin Pines explains plans to mine near Okefenokee,
...A biologist, Cindy House-Pearson, explained how the mining process will include restoring wetlands and plant life after an area has been mined. The process includes digging a pit about 100 feet wide and 500 feet long. The depth dug will be anywhere from 10 to 70 feet.
House-Pearson said there is little wildlife, including endangered red cockaded woodpeckers in the area, which burned in a wildfire several years ago.
“There's not really a whole lot out there right now,” she said.
Dirk Stevenson, another consultant, said gopher tortoises, which are considered threatened by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, will be relocated.
“We will follow the guidance and directions of the DNR,” he said.
Other species such as snakes, amphibians and reptiles will likely move once heavy equipment is close by....
And where will those snakes, amphibians, and reptiles move to?
Alex Kearns, chair of the St. Marys EarthKeepers, asked about impacts to local hunt clubs and Native American artifacts in the area.
“They're not able to answer some of the hardest questions,” she said. “I have real concerns about Native American artifacts.”
Kearns also called for an independent environmental study before mining is approved.
Rena Peck Stricker, executive director of the Georgia River Network, traveled from her Atlanta office to attend the meeting.
She is among those who believe Trail Ridge, a geological formation that stretches along the eastern edge of the refuge, acts as a dam to keep the Okefenokee as a swamp.
Stricker said she is not surprised Twin Pines is making the second attempt in two decades to mine near the swamp, which attracts an estimated 600,000 visitors a year at all the entrances and Stephen Foster State Park.
“I think they feel like the technology is different now,” she said. “I'm still concerned about the Trail Ridge impacts.”
Emily Jones, Georgia Public Broadcasting, 14 August, 2019,
150 Attend Information Session On Mining Near Okefenokee,
...hydrogeologist Bob Holt, who is consulting for Twin Pines.
"The thing that I'm committed to doing is to make sure that the model that I build is constructed thoughtfully, that good scientific practice is applied, and that it's not rushed to meet a deadline," he said.
Holt expects the detailed computer model will back up his preliminary finding that the new methods they use will have a minimal impact.
But many were not convinced. Joanna Jacobs has roots in the area and traveled from Atlanta to Folkston for the meeting. She was concerned that the science on the project isn't ready yet.
"I'm not a fearmongerer,” Jacobs said. “I'm just highly concerned about an unproven method coming into a natural habitat that we can't put back."
Company head Steven Ingle said the finished data will be available before the public comment period ends Sept. 12.
12 August 2019,
Okefenokee Swamp: Proposed sand mine may have national security implications,
... The Commerce Department initiated in March an investigation into whether national security is threatened by the “quantity or circumstances” of the import of one stage of the material, called titanium sponge, according to a Commerce Department statement. The Department of Defense supports the investigation.
This is the at least the second such investigation into titanium imports in recent years. both investigations were initiated after complaints were filed by Titanium Metals Corp.
In 2017, the U.S. International Trade Commission voted to end a complaint filed by TMC over titanium imports. That complaint contended two countries were dumping material into the United States, with Kazakhstan allegedly subsidizing prices of titanium exported to the U.S. by Japan and Kazakhstan....
More in the article about most comments have been about titanium for paint, but that's not its only use, and there is already titanium importing, including through Savannah.
South Florida Sun Sentinel, 12 August 2019,
Federal report shows wildlife refuge added millions to Palm Beach County’s economy,
...According to the study, the refuge saw the second-most visitors, supported the second-highest number of jobs and contributed the second-most amount of money to its local economy of all national wildlife refuges in Florida, after Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, which spans parts of northern Florida and southern Georgia....
- 2019-08-09: Nedra Rhone, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mining proposal raises concerns about future of Okefenokee Swamp
- 2019-07-29: Marla Ogletree, Charlton County Herald, 23 July 2019, Twin Pines seeks permit for heavy mineral mining in Okefenokee area (WWALS blog post)
Emily Jones, Georgia Public Broadcasting, July 19, 2019,
Army Corps Extends Comment Deadline On Mining Near Okefenokee
(WWALS blog post:
Deadline Extended to September 12 on mining proposal near Okefenokee NWR 2019-07-19),
The Army Corps of Engineers is extending the deadline for public comments on a proposal to mine for minerals near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
The new deadline is Sept. 12, an additional 30 days from the original deadline of Aug. 13.
Environmental groups were calling for the deadline extension.
Mindy Morris, Tribune-Georgia (St. Mary's, GA), July 18, 2019,
Strip mine proposed near Okefenokee wildlife refuge,
The St. Marys EarthKeepers, an environmental group focused on coastal Georgia, posted a rally cry on their public Facebook page regarding the proposed Twin Pines Minerals strip mine. Alex Kearns, with the St. Marys EarthKeepers, called it “a project that threatens the very existence of the Okefenokee swamp and the St. Marys River.”
- 2019-07-16: Alexander Osiadacz, FirstCoastNews (WTLV TV, Jacksonville, FL), July 16, 2019, Titanium mine proposed near Okefenokee Refuge: An Alabama company – Twin Pines Minerals – applied for a permit with the Army Corps of Engineers to mine the area for titanium.
- 2019-07-16: Emily Jones and Rickey Bevington, Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB Radio News), 16 July 2019, Corps Of Engineers Seeks Public Comment On Okefenokee Mining
- 2019-07-16: Mary Landers, SavannahNow, July 15, 2019, Strip mining planned next to Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge; contains 300 jobs promise by miners
Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB Radio News), 15 July 2019,
Mining Proposed Near Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
(WWALS blog post: GPB on mining proposal near Okefenokee NWR 2019-07-15)
Editorial, Savannah Morning News, September 7, 2019,
Editorial: Make voices heard on Okefenokee mining,
The Charlton County Commission's recent approval of mining near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Folkston is a misguided — and potentially dangerous — idea.
The Okefenokee Refuge, which consists of approximately 440,000 acres, was originally established in 1936 and has the distinction of being one of the world's largest intact freshwater ecosystems.
Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals LLC has filed a permit application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to mine 16,000 acres next to the Okefenokee for titanium, zircon and other minerals.
Area residents with long memories know that we've been down this road before. About 20 years ago, DuPont floated a proposal to mine 38,000 acres along Trail Ridge on the doorstep of the Okefenokee. After a major public outcry and two years of talks, DuPont abandoned efforts.
At numerous public meetings, covered extensively at the time by this newspaper, opponents drove home their point: mining threatens the underlying hydrology of the region along with the ecotourism that attracts 600,000 visitors to the area each year.
After nearly two years, none of the experts DuPont presented could say with absolute certainty that mining wouldn't harm the swamp. In the end, DuPont dropped its plans and donated 16,000 acres of land it had purchased for mining to preservationists.
Mining near Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge was a bad idea 20 years ago. And it's still a bad idea now....
- 2019-08-20: John McCosh, Georgia Reporter, August 20, 2019, Shine more sunlight on plans to mine near treasured Okefenokee
- 2019-07-17: Editorial, Brunswick News, July 17, 2019, Mining facility should be shelved if it hurts refuge
Alex Kearns, Charlton County Herald, October 1, 2019,
That's Your Job,
Regarding Steve Ingle's, president of Twin Pines, LLC, ad of September 25, 2019:
Mr. Ingle, We noted your full-page ad and feel compelled to respond.
Sir, it is not our job to prove that your operation won't harm the Okefenokee Swamp, and its tributaries, wetlands, and rivers. Yes, we “have select standards for the procedures that help make (modern conveniences) possible.” That's called “environmental stewardship” and “common sense.”
We are not required to demonstrate that a massive mine on the doorstep of a fragile National Wildlife Refuge — a mine that will withdraw 4.3 million gallons per day from the already-stressed Floridan Aquifer, disturb the habitat of myriad species, and potentially damage two vital rivers — is somehow “safe.” That's your job.
Chair, St. Marys,
Steve Ingle, Charlton County Herald, September 25, 2019,
Twin Pines Minerals, LLC
Opposition is easy… If you don’t
have to prove your point,
In the year since we introduced our mining proposal, what stands out to me is how insistent opponents are it will have a negative impact on the swamp. Yet not one study, nor any sound scientific evidence, has been offered to indicate we shouldn’t surface mine, replace excavated soils, and reclaim the land which sits 2.7 miles away from the swamp....
Finally, I have come to realize that regardless of what science says, people are going to accuse us, or the Corps, of putting the swamp in danger. Frankly, I’m tired of talk. We’ve stepped up and are proving our case. For those who are so sure we’re going to harm the swamp, it’s time to step up and prove it.
Christian Hunt, Florida Times Union, September 7, 2019,
Guest Column: Mining has no place near the Okefenokee swamp,
Twenty years ago DuPont attempted to establish a similar mine on the edge of the refuge. In a display of near-universal opposition, local communities, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the interior secretary fought what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considered the “greatest threat” the swamp had ever faced. After years of bitter conflict DuPont shelved the project.
Like DuPont, Twin Pines is hoping to exploit a deposit of titanium found along the so-called Trail Ridge, an earthen barrier that governs water circulation and storage within the larger Okefenokee. If this happens, the Fish and Wildlife Service has warned that the damage to the entire 438,000-acre swamp “may be permanent.”
- 2019-08-29: Rena Peck Stricker, GRN E.D., SavannahNow, 29 August 2019,
Mining next to Okefenokee remains a bad idea,
In the late 1990s, DuPont Chemical proposed mining titanium on the edge of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The public outcry was swift and decisive.
In 1999, DuPont relented and withdrew its proposal and the Okefenokee was protected. Until now.
Now Twin Pines LLC, a tiny Alabama-based company with no experience in building or operating a mine like this, proposes mining 2,414 acres (with the potential to expand to 12,000 acres) with depths of up to 70 feet, which could fundamentally alter the hydrology of the Refuge. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is on record stating that impacts from the mine may not be able to be reversed.
Our primeval Okefenokee is an international treasure and is the largest wildlife refuge east of the Mississippi. Over 700,000 people visit the Refuge every year, generating about $88 million in economic impact and providing 753 jobs.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is reviewing Twin Pines' plans to impact 500 acres of wetlands and over a mile of streams. The agency is currently taking comments from the public and will soon decide whether to issue a permit for the project. Comments must be submitted by Sept. 12. To voice your concerns about the mine's impact to wildlife, water and the tourism economy supported by the Okefenokee, go to garivers.org/priority-issues.
Mining provides important resources that all people use, but there are good places to mine and bad places. This is the wrong mine in the wrong place. Some places are too special to be put at risk for short-term profits. The Okefenokee is such a place.
Rena Peck Stricker
Georgia River Network
Mark Lyons Charlton County Herald, 20 August 2019,
It's a shame to silence and gag majority,
I would like to address my family, friends and the citizens of Charlton County. I am a fifth generation resident of Baker County, Florida. I have always considered Charlton County my second home. You all are our neighbors. I grew up fishing in the swamp and the St Marys River and camping from Emmaus Church, Simpson's Landing to Traders Hill. I have relatives all over Charlton County. My mother's mother was a Burnsed and her grandmother, a Reynolds. My father's mother was a Thrift and her grandmother, a Sands. My five times great-grandfather, George Reynolds, had a homestead on the North Prong of the St Marys River on the Florida side of the St Marys and constructed the first bridge across the North prong off of County Road 185. A bridge that we still use and call Reynolds Bridge to this day. I'm related to the Burnseds, Canadays, Mobleys, Reynolds, Thrifts, Sands and Stokes by blood and the Crewses, Chessers and Raulersons by marriage. I have always felt at home and welcomed in Charlton County. I recently had an experience in Folkston at your county commission meeting that made me feel like I was very unwelcome in Charlton County. I was made to feel like a complete stranger and as a member of the public and a citizen of these United States did not deserve or was not worthy of three minutes to address your County Commission Board during the public comment period of their meeting.
I went to the commission meeting on August 15 because I had received a copy of the agenda for that meeting and agenda item #6 was of great importance to me. I had with me a prepared statement to read into record and an official Consent Order to read into the record of that meeting during public comment. When item #20 on the agenda (Public Comment) came up, your chairman James E. Everett announced that only Charlton County residents could come to the podium and speak for three minutes and if you were not a Charlton County resident you could see the clerk for an index card and write your comment on the card and hand it back to the clerk because you would not be allowed to address the board for public comment at the podium. Gagging the public because they are not a resident of a county is absolutely absurd! The agenda says public comment, not Charlton County residents comment only. Their official agenda says -Public Comments (Please limit to three minutes). It does not say anything about being a resident or non resident of Charlton County. It says nothing about being black, white, blue or green nor did it include any restrictions on who could or could not speak during public comment. Government is suppose to be FOR the people and BY the people. County Government is not a private business or some hierarchy ruled by the commission as their private kingdom although I feel some in your county government think that. Your county manager Hampton Raulerson told Laura Early the Satilla River Keeper and Executive Director that the commissioners are there to make decisions and not to listen to public comments. Really?? Whom does Mr. Raulerson think elected the commission and whom does Mr. Raulerson think he works for? Apparently themselves. Gordon Jackson of the (Brunswick News) who has covered Charlton County government for 17 years has stated he has never witnessed such restrictions on silencing the public in Charlton County Commission meetings. Georgia Public Broadcast newsletter on August 17, the day after this commission meeting stated that county officials said they decided on this new ‘gag rule' at this very meeting due to the ‘large' crowd and they didn't know how many were Charlton residents and by letting only residents speak it would move the meeting along a little faster and let them identify their residents. WHEN did they decide that? At THIS meeting?? Did I fall asleep? Are your commissioners telepathic and some how discussed this among themselves before our very eyes without a peep from their vocal cords? I don't know what you would call that, but I call that something that comes out of the back end of a bull! They absolutely DID NOT discuss making this change to the public comment period during this meeting. It was announced and sprung on the public when it came time for public comment and VERY apparent this decision was made prior to this meeting! The ‘large' crowd was there at 6:00 pm, the meeting started and there was no discussion of this sudden revelation that wow we have a ‘large' crowd here tonight and we are going to have to find out who Charlton residents are by limiting who can speak and not let out of county residents speak in order to save time. What is the big deal about rushing a meeting or keeping a meeting short? I have attended many commissioner meeting in multiple counties in Georgia and Florida and have never been told I could not address the board during public comment because I did not live there. I have also been in commission meetings where 20 to 50 citizens or more have spoken during public comment and the meetings didn't get over until the wee hours of the morning. I guess your commissioners have more important things to attend to other than county business and that's the need to keep their meetings short. Your commissioners are the highest paid employees of your county. If you take their annual salary and divided it by the number of hours they ACTUALLY meet and work they are making hundreds of dollars per hour. Pretty good pay for a ‘part time' job.
It's a shame your chairman James E. Everett decided to gag and silence the majority of the public at that meeting. If I had been able to read and enter into record the documents I had with me it might have helped keep a little egg off of the commissioners faces when the dust settles over this premature proclamation of support for Twin Pines Mining that they unanimously voted for. Your commission has voted to support a company that is already breaking the law in Florida destroying wetlands without permits and dumping waste water without proper permitting. Sounds like a trustworthy and upstanding company to trust with the Okefenokee to me... The Okefenokee brings over 650,000 people a year to the swamp and those people spend money in your county. The swamp brings in millions in revenue each year. If it's damaged and destroyed no amount of mining jobs or mining tax revenue to Charlton County will ever make up for that. EVER!
Alex Kearns of St. Marys Earthkeepers was first with a followup op-ed,
in the Brunswick News, 17 August 2019,
Speak out against Twin Pines proposal
We've seen no hydrological studies. They've performed no research regarding the potentially devastating impacts on the nearby hunt clubs and hunters that rely on the swamp for their income. No studies have been done about the impacts on tourism. In fact, Twin Pines offers (in their videotaped words) “no guarantees” that their operation will not negatively and permanently impact the Okefenokee Swamp and the rivers and people that depend upon it.
Jackie Gingrich Cushman, TownHall.com, 15 August 2019,
Being Good Stewards of Our Earth,
When I was a child, my father — former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — was an environmental studies professor at West Georgia College in Carrollton. In 1971, our family spent the second Earth Day picking up trash from the side of the road. We often hiked, canoed and camped in the Okefenokee Swamp.
She doesn't say anything about the proposed mine. Maybe she should. -jsq
John S. Quarterman, Charlton County Herald, 13 August 2019,
Swamp more important than miners under Consent Order in Florida
2019-07-22: W.S. Stuckey, Brunswick News,
Okefenokee refuge impact area in several ways,
As former Congressman of the 8th District of Georgia, one of the high points of my service was designating the Okefenokee Swamp as a U.S. Wilderness Area in 1974. Today, the United Nations recognizes the Okefenokee as a Wetland of International Importance.
Twin Pines, a mining company based in Alabama, has applied for a U.S Army Corps of Engineers permit for heavy metal sand mining on a tract outside the Refuge. As part of the review process, the Corps can require a full Environmental Impact Study. I believe such a measure is necessary given the importance of the Okefenokee and the potential environmental impacts.
The Okefenokee is a natural treasure. We revel in the biological diversity. Its still, black waters and the bellow of an alligator stir our imagination and transport us away from the realities of our busy lives. But there is more to the Okefenokee.
The Okefenokee has 600,000 visitors a year and generates $88M in economic impact in Charlton, Clinch, and Ware counties.
Putting this natural treasure and its economic impact at risk is unthinkable. I am advocating for a thorough review of the risks associated with mining, specifically its impact on ground and swamp waters.
I urge everyone to join me in contacting the Corps of Engineers by submitting an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and requesting a full examination of the environmental risks associated with mining alongside the global treasure of which we are the stewards.
W.S. Stuckey, Jr.
2019-07-21: Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, Valdosta Daily Times, page 4A, July 24, 2019, and online July 21: QUARTERMAN: Swamp, Suwannee more valuable than titanium
(WWALS blog post updated for more recent developments:
QUARTERMAN: Swamp, Suwannee more valuable than titanium in VDT 2019-07-23)
“Gateway to the Okefenokee” says the sign as you exit I-75 southbound into Valdosta.
Twin Pines Minerals promises jobs, taxes, and low impact. Yet just across the state line in Florida, miners made all those same promises, and nobody can name any local people employed.
The miners have told multiple organizations they want to ship the ore to Starke, Florida, for processing. That's in Bradford County, between the New River and the Santa Fe River, which flows into the Suwannee River.
During Hurricane Irma, the only pollution spills in the Suwannee River Basin in Florida (other than truck wrecks) were three from Chemours mines on Trail Ridge in Baker and Bradford Counties.
Do we want to risk that on Trail Ridge in Charlton County, Georgia, where downhill is either the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge or the St. Mary's River? That river is a favorite local recreational resort. The Refuge, directly and indirectly, supports hundreds of jobs.
We need a real Environmental Impact Statement before we let miners risk the Suwannee River headwaters in the Okefenokee Swamp, or its tributaries the New or Santa Fe Rivers.
- 2019-07-20: Alice Keyes, 100 Miles, Brunswick News,
Okefenokee refuge should be protected,
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most unique natural landscapes on the East Coast. My family, along with 600,000 guests annually, visit to bask in its vast wilderness.
But today, the ‘land of trembling earth' has a trembling future. Mining company Twin Pines plans to mine minerals used in paint, dangerously close to our treasured swamp.
Okefenokee lies west of Trail Ridge, an ancient sandy beachfront running parallel to Georgia's coast. Trail Ridge provides unique habitats and corridors for important species like gopher tortoises. It also serves as a natural barrier that keeps water in the swamp.
Twin Pines' immediate plans are to mine along Trail Ridge, recklessly affecting over 500 acres of wetlands in a 2,400-acre site and eventually mining 10,000 more acres. They propose to excavate deep soils (up to 50 feet below the surface), significantly changing geologic formations created over hundreds of thousands of years and impacting the flow of water in and around the swamp. Such major alterations to a treasured natural system likely cannot be reversed, repaired, or mitigated. We cannot risk damaging our beloved Okefenokee for reckless mining.
Now through September 12, I hope the public will join me in submitting comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responsible for issuing the company permits.
The Corps must host a public hearing and require an Environmental Impact Statement to analyze the impacts and prevent activities that will forever alter the trembling earth that has inspired so many generations.
- 2019-07-18: Mark Lyons, Baker County Press, July 18, 2019, Seeks comments on proposed mining
THE BAKER COUNTY Press, OPINION. LETTER TO THE EDITOR, Thursday, July 18, 2019
Seeks comments on proposed mining
For boating, fishing, hunting and wildlife, the Okefenokee Swamp and the St. Mary's River are local one-of-a-kind treasures famous nationwide and throughout the world. A new company called Twin Pines Minerals is proposing to operate a heavy mineral sand mining facility on approximately 12,000 acres comprised of six different tracts of land. The first mining phase is the currently proposed project area of 2,414 acres between the Okefenokee Swamp and the St. Marys River in Charlton County, Georgia. The site is located North of Georgia Highway 94, West of Georgia Highway 23, and East of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, St. George, Georgia and Charlton County, Georgia.
During Hurricane Irma, the only industrial pollution spills in the Suwannee River Basin were accidental overflows and emergency releases from the Chemours mine on Trail Ridge in Baker and Bradford Counties.
Do we want to risk that on Trail Ridge in Charlton County, where downhill is either the Okefenokee Swamp or the St. Marys River? The swamp and the river are everyone's recreational resort.
The refuge, directly and indirectly, supports hundreds of jobs and over 600,000 people visit the swamp each year. About $88 million of annual expenditures can be attributed to the swamp yearly in the form of jobs, tax revenue and economic output. Mining on Trail Ridge could jeopardize an extremely important and iconic places.
Twin Pines Minerals is based in Birmingham, Alabama. People from there warn us of the company's poor environmental record concerning coal mining. At least let's get some independent evaluation of the miners' claims of be- ing good environmental stewards. We need a thorough and sound Environmental Impact Statement. Let's encourage Charlton County commissioners to help with that.
The next Charlton County Commission meeting is Thursday, July 18 in Folkston at 68 Kingsland Drive.
The Army Corps is soliciting comments from the public, federal, state and local agencies and officials; Native American tribes and other interested parties in order to consider and evaluate the impacts of this proposed activitiy. Any comments received will be considered by the Corps to determine whether to issue, modify, condition or deny a permit for this proposal. To make this decision, comments are used to assess impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects, and the other public interest factors listed above. Comments are used in the preparation of an environmental assessment and/or an impact statement pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. Comments are also used to determine the need for a public hearing and to determine the overall public interest of the proposed activity.
Anyone wishing to comment on this application for a Department of the Army permit should submit comments in writing to the Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, Attention: Ms. Holly Ross, 1104 North Westover Boulevard, Suite 9, Albany, Georgia, 31707, or by email to email@example.com, no later than 30 days from July 12.
Please refer to the applicant's name and the application number in your comments: Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, 2100 Southbridge Parkway, Birmingham, Alabama 35209, Application Number: SAS-2018-00554. If you have any further questions concerning this matter, please contact Ms. Ross, Project Manager, Albany Field Office at 648-422-2727 or via email at the above address.
Mark Lyons, Glen St. Mary
San Francisco Chronicle, 16 August 2019,
County officials vote to favor mining near Okefenokee refuge,
FOLKS[T]ON, Ga. (AP) — County officials in Georgia are supporting a mining proposal near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge that a U.S. agency has said could cause environmental damage.
Radio station WSVH [Georgia Public Broadcasting] reports the Charlton County Commission voted unanimously Thursday evening to approve a proclamation backing the mining plan by Twin Pines Minerals of Alabama. Commissioners cited the company's promise of 150 jobs as well as additional tax revenue....
And this second AP story got a lot of pickups:
Russ Bynum, Associated Press, 19 July 2019,
Agency says mining near Okefenokee poses ‘substantial risks’
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — The federal agency that manages the vast wildlife refuge in the Okefenokee Swamp says a private company's plan to mine minerals near the swamp edge could pose “substantial risks” to the environment, and some damage may be irreversible.
The written comments from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were provided to The Associated Press on Friday by the Army Corps of Engineers, which disclosed last week that it is considering a permit request by the mining company Twin Pines Minerals LLC of Birmingham, Alabama.
The company wants to mine titanium dioxide less than 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) from the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. It's the largest federal refuge east of the Mississippi River, covering nearly 630 square miles (1,630 square kilometers) near the Georgia-Florida state line.
“After the mining, it is questionable if the site will serve as habitat for either species ever again,” the Fish and Wildlife memo said.
- Brunswick, GA, Brunswick News
- National, U.S. News & World Report
- Watertown, SD, KXLG
- Washington, DC, The Washington Post
- Wisconsin, WiscNews
- Rome, GA, Rome News-Tribune
- Grand Island, NE, The Grand Island Independent
- Rock Hill, NC, Rock Hill Herald
- Las Vegas, NV, Fox 5, KVVU-TV
- Mankato, MN, The Makato Free Press,
- San Francisco, CA, San Francisco Chronicle,
And many more.
This first AP story went everywhere:
- 2019-07-16: Russ Bynum, Associated Press, July 16, 2019, Company wants to mine at edge of protected Okefenokee Swamp, carried by:
- New York, NY, New York Times
- Washington, DC, Washington Post
- Chicago, IL, Chicago Tribune
- National, U.S. News & World Report
- Brunswick, GA, Brunswick News
- Valdosta, GA, Valdosta Daily Times
- Savannah, GA, WTOC TV
- Columbus, GA, WRBL TV
- Decatur, AL, Decatur Daily
- Dothan, AL, Dothan Eagle
- Houston, TX, Houston Chronicle
- Kansas City, Kansas, KCTV
- Wisconsin, WiscNews
- Chippewa, Wisconsin, Chippewa Herald
- Pocatella, ID, KPVI TV
- Vancouver, BC, Canada, News 1130
- Calgary, AB, Canada, 660 News
- and probably many more venues.
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!