Charlton County Commission passed resolution supporting titanium mine near Okefenokee Swamp 2019-08-15

Causing outrage from the packed house, the Charlton County Commission refused Thursday to let anyone speak who did not live in the county or own land there. This was after the Commission unanimously passed a resolution supporting the proposed titanium mine, without any public hearing and with citizens at all permitted to speak beforehand. The resolution apparently says it depends on the miners getting permits, and Charlton County does not decide on those permits. The opposition is now even more determined to stop those permits by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the state of Georgia. You, too, can comment to USACE and GA-EPD by the current deadline of September 12, 2019.

[Signs]
Photo: 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.

The Charlton County Commission’s public speaking rule is indeed new, since the previous month I made a point of saying I came from Lowndes County, Georgia, and they didn’t say a peep. They have had no public open meetings between then and last Thursday, so many people wonder when they passed this new rule, and how they could do that in conformance with the Georgia Open Meetings Act.

Once again, GPB was first to publish the story: Emily Jones, Georgia Public Broadcasting, 15 August 2019, Charlton County Backs Proposed Mining Near Okefenokee,

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.

As my letter pointed out, the miners have told various people anywhere from 150 to 300 jobs, and in Baker and Bradford Counties, Florida, nobody who lives there seems to be able to find any neighbors who work for the Chemours mines.

TPM Consultant Robert Holt, a hydrogeologist at the University of Mississippi, told Mary Landers of Savannahnow, “We plan to publish our results in peer reviewed journals and that’s the gold standard in science.” Yet TPM head Steve Ingle is on video saying the reports will be available before the September 12th USACE deadline. It can’t be both.

The GPB story continued:

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.

Bits of that GPB story were picked up by the Associated Press, and carried as far as the San Francisco Chronicle, 16 August 2019, County officials vote to favor mining near Okefenokee refuge,

Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), 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.

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.

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.

How to Comment

The comment deadline was May 28, 2020, according to SAS-2018-00554 Twin Pines Minerals, Published April 13, 2020, Expiration date: 5/28/2020.

“The Savannah District will hold a virtual Public Meeting for the Twin Pines project on May 13, 2020 from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM EDT. The meeting will consist of a formal presentation followed by a question and answer session. The meeting will be recorded and published to the Savannah District public website. To allow time for the public to submit questions and RSVP to the public meeting, as well as comment on any information presented at the meeting, additional public comments will be accepted and the original public notice will remain open until May 28, 2020, 15 days after the virtual public meeting.”

However, you can write to your elected officials. And the Corps apparently actually continues to read comments after the deadline, right up until they make a decision. While you are at home because of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), you have a great opportunity to write a comment, and to You can also post your comments on social media, as op-eds, etc.

You can ask the Corps and other elected and appointed officials to deny the application, or to require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to consider wider areas the mine may affect, especially the entire Okefenokee Swamp, the Suwannee and St Marys Rivers, and the rest of Trail Ridge in Georgia. You can ask for the EIS to include other mines relevant to this one, especially the four Chemours titanium strip mines in north Florida for which TPM, along with Chemours, is under a Florida Consent Order for a range of violations. You may want to ask for inclusion of the existing phosphate mine in Hamilton County, Florida, next to the Suwannee River, as well as the one proposed in Union and Bradford Counties, Florida, next to the New and Santa Fe Rivers, tributaries of the Suwannee. All those mines affect the Floridan Aquifer, which is the main source of water for drinking, agriculture, and industry for everyone in south Georgia and north Florida.

To comment, or to request a public hearing, you can write to
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 CESAS-SpecialProjects@usace.army.mil or holly.a.ross@usace.army.mil.
In your comments please refer to:
Applicant: Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, Application Number: SAS-2018-00554.

For the requested state permit regarding Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, you can send a comment or request for public hearing to
Stephen Wiedl, Wetlands Unit, stephen.wiedl@dnr.ga.gov
Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division, Water Protection Branch, 7 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Atlanta, Georgia 30334.

For the Georgia Coastal Management Program certification, you can send a comment to
Federal Consistency Coordinator, Ecological Services Section, Coastal Resources Division,
Georgia Department of Natural Resources, One Conservation Way, Brunswick, Georgia 31523-9600
Telephone 912-264-7218.

The public announcement says: “The applicant may also require assent from the State of Georgia, which may be in the form of a license, easement, lease, permit, or other appropriate instrument.”

You can write to your Georgia state representative or senator or governor or lieutenant governor and ask them to refuse any such instrument.
To find your legislator you can type in your ZIP code here: http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/

You can also write to your U.S. Representative or Senator and ask them to urge the Corps to reject this mine or at least require an EIS, like Rep. Al Lawson (FL-05) already did.

You can also write to the Georgia DNR board, asking them to refuse any such instrument.
Georgia Board of Natural Resources
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, SE, Suite 1252, Atlanta, GA 30334

You can write to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking them to ask the state of Florida to comment.

To: Mary S. Walker, Regional Administrator, walker.mary@epa.gov
Jeaneanne Gettle, Director, Water Division, gettle.jeaneanne@epa.gov
Blake Ashbee, Chief of Staff, ashbee.blake@epa.gov,
Carol Kemker, Director, Enforcement & Compliance Assurance Division, kemker.carol@epa.gov
Region 4, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Cc: Gregory J. Strong, Director, Northeast Division, Greg.Strong@dep.state.fl.us
Noah Valenstein, Director, Noah.Valenstein@dep.state.fl.us
Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP)
 
Col. Daniel Hibner, Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,Savannah District
Attention: Ms. Holly Ross, holly.a.ross@usace.army.mil,
CESAS-SpecialProjects@usace.army.mil
1104 North Westover Boulevard, Suite 9, Albany, Georgia 31707
 
Stephen Wiedl, Wetlands Unit, stephen.wiedl@dnr.ga.gov
Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division,
Water Protection Branch, 7 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Atlanta, GA 30334

Re: Applicant: Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, Application Number: SAS-2018-00554

Dear Administrator Walker and Director Gettle,

Here is the pithy request sent by Waterkeepers Florida:

We request EPA to determine, according to 33 CFR § 325.2(b), whether the mining activities of the applicant may affect the quality of the waters of the state of Florida and to notify the state of Florida, the district engineer, and the applicant that Florida therefore “has 60 days from receipt of EPA's notice to determine if the proposed discharge will affect the quality of its waters so as to violate any water quality requirement in such state, to notify EPA and the district engineer in writing of its objection to permit issuance, and to request a public hearing.”

To submit a letter to the editor of the Charlton County Herald, you can email editor@charltonherald.com.
Or write to your local newspaper.
You can also contact radio, TV, and of course post on social media.

Much more about the proposed mine is here:
wwals.net/issues/titanium-mining/

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!

2 thoughts on “Charlton County Commission passed resolution supporting titanium mine near Okefenokee Swamp 2019-08-15

  1. Brianna Conner

    I am not really sure why it is even a question if we should let twin pines move forward. Twin Pines said themselves that there were “no guarantees” that their operation would not negatively and permanently impact the Okefenokee Swamp and the rivers. If twin pines truly wants to proceed they need to further consider the impact. Not just work off of maybes and possibilities. Right now they give us no reason to believe that it will not impact the swamp as they are not certain themselves.

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