WCTV on mining proposed near Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge 2019-08-21

“Because of the coal plants in Georgia, there’s mercury deposition on the surface of the ground for years. If they go stir all that up, that could run in to the swamp,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman. “Why should we risk the Okefenokee, its boating, its fishing, its birding.”

Quoted by a reporter based in Valdosta, GA for WCTV in Tallahassee, FL, Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 21 August 2019, Heavy mining facility proposed near Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge,

[Sign]
Photo: John S. Quarterman, Okefenokee NWR Entrance Sign, 2019-07-18

…Last week the Charlton County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution of support for the project. County officials said the reason is because Charlton County does not have many industry opportunities of its own, and many residents leave to surrounding counties for work. officials said the 150 jobs created from the project could be beneficial to the county.

The Okefenokee Swamp is the headwater for the Suwannee River, which is why community members across the region are fighting the proposal, saying it could have consequences in both states.

In the proposal, the ‘heavy mineral sand mining facility’ would require a loss of about 65 acres of wetland, and a temporary impact of about 522 acres of wetlands. It would sit on about 12,00 acres on six tracts of land.

Plans say it will be worked on in phases, each phase on about 25 to 40 acres per month.

Concerns about the project span across the state of Georgia. Those opposed said the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Okefenokee Swamp and connecting Suwannee River are major economic and tourism driver for the both the state of Georgia and Florida, and this project could put that at risk.

“Because of the coal plants in Georgia, there’s mercury deposition on the surface of the ground for years. If they go stir all that up, that could run in to the swamp,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman. “Why should we risk the Okefenokee, its boating, its fishing, its birding.”

While the Charlton County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution of support, county officials said they do not have jurisdiction over the zoning or permitting. All permits for the project will ultimately be up to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

There is a public comment period open for the project through September 12.

We reached out to Twin Pines Minerals LLC, but have yet to hear back.

How to Comment

The current comment deadline is Tuesday, April 14, 2020, according to the Public Notice of March 13, 2020.

That thirty day deadline is grossly inadequate, especially considering that everyone is advised to stay home for eight weeks or 56 days because of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Plus the entire Twin Pines Minerals (TPM) application is hundreds of pages, and nobody can adequately absorb and analyze all that in thirty days.

While you are at home, you have a great opportunity to write a comment, and to write to your elected officials. You can also post your comments on social media, as op-eds, etc.

In your comment, perhaps you would like to ask for a deadline extension of 120 days, and a public hearing.

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

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.

Connections

South Georgia is connected along the Florida line from Lowndes County to the Okefenokee in numerous ways, including Georgia Statehouse District 174 runs from Lowndes to Charlton Counties. Rep. John Corbett is on a Southwings plane over the Okefenokee right now as I type, at my invitation. Yes, there are people from Florida on today’s flights, too.

U.S. Congressional House District 1 also runs from Moody AFB in Lowndes County to the Atlantic. Maybe for the next flights I’ll invite everybody running for GA-01. Ditto FL-05, which runs along the Florida side of the GA-FL line from Tallahassee to Jacksonville.

Tallahassee, the capital of Florida, should care, because the Okefenokee NWR provides the most “amount of money to its local economy of all national wildlife refuges in Florida”, even though most of it is not even in Florida. Not to mention the Okefenokee is the headwaters of the Suwannee River, of the Florida state song.

Much more about this mining proposal is here:
wwals.net/pictures/2019-07-12–tpm-usace/

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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