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 nominal comment deadline was Thursday, September 12, 2019, but the Corps will not say it will not read comments sent in later, so you can still send in your comments, and post them on social media, as op-eds, etc.

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 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.

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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