Jesup deja vu times two: DuPont, Chemours, Twin Pines, titanium mining, Folkston, Starke

Does this sound familiar? “DuPont planned to separate the mineral sands from the rest and then truck that to its facility in Starke for final processing.”

[Chemours haul from Jesup to Starke]
Chemours plans to haul the extracted ore from a mine near Jesup, in Wayne County, to a Chemours facility near Starke, Fla. The material could be hauled by truck or by CSX Corp., which provides service between the two cities, according to the company’s map. Credit: Google Earth, David Pendered, Saporta Report

Multiple organizations also said Twin Pines Minerals (TPM) told them TPM planned to haul ore to Starke to process from TPM’s proposed mine in Charlton County, Georgia, but this was DuPont, in 2014, in Wayne County. And Chemours, starting about 2016, also in Wayne County.

Dupont Jesup Mine

Terry Dickson, Jacksonville.com, 27 August 2014, DuPont withdraws application for permit to mine more than 2,200 acres in Wayne County,

….C.J. Hilton, manager of the Starke plant, said the company has heard the concerns of the neighbors and the community.

“We will continue to listen. Our goal is to be good stewards of the environment while bringing economic development and jobs to Wayne County, Ga.,” Hilton said Wednesday in a release. “We look forward to continued discussions with all stakeholders as the process goes forward.”

I wonder what he says about TPM’s proposal?

This also sounds familiar:

The company had applied to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to excavate the mineral bearing sands on 4,063 acres of leased land to extract titanium oxide, zircon and other minerals. Environmentalists and local residents asserted that DuPont’s proposed method of excavating 25 to 50 feet deep would affect drinking water wells and that the dust and truck traffic from the operation would hurt property values and the quality of life.

That sounds like the same process as TPM intends for Charlton County.

[DuPont company spokeswoman Tara] Stewart said the company is capable of mining in a way that will address the concerns.

“We’ve been mining 80 years, 60 in Florida,” she said. “We know how to do this well.”

Well, that’s more than TPM can say, considering the Florida Consent Order against TPM and Chemours. Oh, wait, Chemours is the new version of DuPont, so DuPont and Chemours also can’t say “We know how to do this well”! But I’m getting ahead of the story.

Greenlaw, SELC, Altamaha Riverkeeper, Satilla Riverkeeper, Press Release, 27 August 2014, Public Outcry Against Proposed Mine Continues to Grow, Mining Company Withdraws Permit Application (see also WWALS blog post),

“We are glad to see that DuPont is acknowledging the unanimous opposition of the people of Wayne County to their proposed strip mine in one of our most populous neighborhoods,” said Beth Roach of the Concerned Neighbors for Wayne County. “We do not welcome or need their negative impacts on our water supply, our air quality, our public safety, or our property values.”

So massive public outcry made that DuPont mine go away.

But wait, back in the Jacksonville.com story:

There is also a legal element in the delay as DuPont plans to spin off its Titanium Technologies business and mining operations into a new company planned for mid 2015.

“…We understand that permits will need to be under our new company name and legal entity moving forward,” DuPont said.

Chemours Jesup Mine

That new company is Chemours. “The ores will be hauled by an unspecified method about 125 miles south to a Chemours processing facility near Starkely[sic], Fla….”

David Pendered, Saporta Report, 25 June 2017, Proposed sand mine in Wayne County could pump up to 11.5 million gallons of water a day,

A proposed surface mine in Wayne County, near Georgia’s coast, will be allowed to withdraw up to 11.5 million gallons of water a day from the Altamaha River basin, according to draft permits announced June 23 by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division has issued three draft permits to the Chemours Co., which DuPont spun off in 2015. The public comment period ends July 24. A public hearing may be called if EPD’s director finds enough public interest, according to the draft permits.

The EPD permit application notices (151-0004, 151-0707-01, and 151-0707-02) still seem to refer to the same mines as the former DuPont mine locations off of US 341: “the Amelia A, Amelia B North, & Amelia B South Process Water Ponds (3) in the Altamaha River Basin for the purpose of supplying process water to the Amelia A, Amelia B North, & Amelia B South Mobile Concentrator Plants (3) for mineral sands processing operations in Wayne County.”

Permittee’s Name: The Chemours Company TT, LLC

Permittee’s Address: P.O. Box 753, Starke, FL 32091

Derby Waters, The Press-Sentinel, 20-21 August 2016, Chemours applying again to mine here,

…According to a public advisory that was discovered by local resident Betty Benner, the application is for the same two mines, Amelia A and B, that were proposed in the earlier application. The mining would be on 2,653 acres, the advisory stated, and would be for “heavy mineral sands.”

Contacted about the application, C.J. Hilton, head of titanium mining for Chemours in Starke, Fla., acknowledged that the application had been filed. He said that the company had sent a copy of the proposed application to the Wayne County commissioners back in May. “We gave the commissioners 60 days to review the application, as per our earlier agreement with them,” Hilton said.

He said the commissioners made no recommendation for changes and, in fact, had made no comment about the application.

Hilton said the new application reflects some changes that were included to take into consideration some of the objections raised about the earlier application by Wayne County residents and environmental groups….

That local story continues with confirmation that the Wayne County Administrator and Board of Commissioners got an application with detailed maps months before, yet did not tell the public, and “ the commissioners had never “sat down as a group and reviewed them [the plans].””

However, that story and Chemours’ own website now refers to what seems to be a different location. Chemours, chemours.com, accessed 8 September 2019, Wayne County Prospers,

Wayne County Proposed Mine

Chemours is seeking to establish titanium surface mining operations in Wayne County, Georgia. The proposed mine will maintain an average depth of 15 feet and be on land currently used for growing and harvesting timber, located west of the city of Jesup, near Highway 84 and Holmesville and Empire roads.

There is a parcel that matches that description, on Flint Branch Church Road: Wayne County Parcel ID 72-59, HOPKINS W C & SONS, P O BOX 488, FOLKSTON GA 31537

[Parcell 72-59, Hopkin W C & Sons]
Parcell 72-59, Hopkins W C & Sons

I suppose it may be coincidence that PO Box 88, Folkston, GA is also the address of Toledo Manufacturing Company, which owns thousands of acres of land in Charlton County, GA, including immediately north of the Twin Pines Minerals site near St. George.

[Many parcels, Toledo Manufacturing Company]
Many parcels, Toledo Manufacturing Company

According to the Georgia Secretary of State, Corporations Division, the registered agent, CEO, and CFO is ALVA J HOPKINS III. Maybe I’ll ask Joe Hopkins; he came up to me at the August 13, 2019, TPM dog-and-pony show in Folkston, saying he wanted to meet people who write about him, as I did previously. Maybe he’s reading this (Hi, Joe!).

Meanwhile, that Hopkins parcel in Wayne County west of Jesup, viewed from a public road, is indeed covered with planted pines a few years old.

[Road curves]
Photo: John S. Quarterman for WWALS, 2019-08-08, Flint Branch Road curves

The Chemours Wayne County fact sheet sounds very familiar:

Using a minimally invasive mining process, the minerals—which constitute approximately three percent of the soil—are extracted using an on-site gravity spiral separation process that does not require chemicals. Once the desired mineral ores, titanium, zircon, and staurolite, are separated, the restoration of topsoil and planting of tree seedlings and native grasses takes place.

Separated minerals will be shipped to our Starke, Florida facility for further processing. The estimated initial investment of more than $20 million in the first year of operation and $18 million each following year is expected to create over 60 full-time positions.

So DuPont and Chemours both said they wanted to ship ore to Starke to process. TPM told at least two organizations that early on, then on August 13th said they did not intend to do that. So do they, or don’t they? And maybe public pressure is already working.

Wait, there’s more confusion. Southern Ionics Minerals, Press Release, 27 November 2018, WAYNE COUNTY MINE SITE TO CREATE 100 NEW JOBS: Low-impact technology will extract minerals, boost economy

Offerman, Ga.; (November 27, 2018) — Southeast Georgia-based mineral sands mining company Southern Ionics Minerals (SIM) will combine its local experience and mining expertise with Chemours Titanium Technologies to mine a mineral sand deposit in Wayne County. The mine site is on private property currently used to grow commercial timber. As the mining progresses through the site, the land will be reclaimed continuously and restored back to productive timberland….

Mineral sand concentrate will be produced at the mine, then trucked to SIM’s Mineral Separation Plant in Offerman for further processing. Shipping of Chemours’ final products will be managed by Chemours.

Processing in Offerman instead of Starke, despite Chemours’ own website still saying Starke? Maybe that SIM PR was talking about Amelia A or B instead of the site between Holmesville and Empire roads? Maybe that latter site is Amelia A? Who can say, since apparently the miners nor Wayne County have ever published details of the mine sites.

We do at least know that SIM getting involved in the Chemours Wayne County operations was a prelude to Chemours buying SIM. The Chemours Company, Press Release, 2 August 2019, Chemours Acquires Mining Operations of Southern Ionics Minerals: Acquisition Will Enable Substantial Increase in Ore Production,

The acquisition includes a mineral sands processing plant in Offerman, Georgia, an existing mine site in Charlton County Georgia, and administrative offices in Jacksonville, Florida.

According to Bryan Snell, president of the Titanium Technologies business for Chemours, the SIM assets complement the company’s long-term business goals. According to Snell: “When we announced plans to begin operations at a new mineral sands mine site in Jesup, Georgia, we partnered with SIM to process the sands on our behalf. Their facilities for separating and processing the minerals were essential to our growth plans.”

“But more importantly, SIM has a track record that demonstrates their strong commitment of being a responsible steward of the land and a good neighbor to the communities in which they operate,” said Snell. “Their values of trust and integrity are closely aligned with our corporate value of unshakable integrity and our corporate responsibility commitments. We are proud to have SIM and its employees as part of our mining operations business,” he added.

Hm, “a responsible steward of the land and a good neighbor to the communities in which they operate.” Well, Chemours seems to have reason to be concerned about that.

Alexander H. Tullo, Chemical and Engineering News, 2 July 2019, VOLUME 97, ISSUE 27, Chemours sues DuPont over environmental liabilities: Company says former owner soft-pedaled costs at time of spin off,

DuPont grossly underestimated the environmental liabilities it saddled Chemours with when it spun off the new company in 2015, according to a lawsuit filed by Chemours.

The complaint, filed in the Delaware Court of Chancery in May but unsealed on June 28, asks for limits on DuPont’s liabilities to be removed, or for DuPont to return a nearly $4 billion dividend that Chemours paid DuPont at the time of the spin-off.

At the center of the lawsuit are “High End (Maximum) Realistic Exposure” figures—estimates of the liabilities DuPont transferred to Chemours, which took over DuPont businesses such as titanium dioxide and fluorochemicals.

For example, DuPont had been facing 3,500 lawsuits in Ohio over exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). At spin-off, DuPont determined the maximum liability was $128 million. DuPont later ended up splitting a $671 million settlement with Chemours. It also agreed to provide up to $125 million for future liabilities.

That article also mentions PFOA cases on the Cape Fear River in North Carolina, and in New Jersey. I wonder if they had any cases at the DuPont, now Chemours, mines in north Florida? It’s hard to tell.

Randall Chase, AP, 7 June 2019, DuPont loses appeal bid to keep Chemours lawsuit secret,

…A redacted version of the 64-page complaint — which was filed shortly after The Associated Press pointed out the expiration of the deadline and asked the court to unseal the filing — is almost entirely blacked out. A cover sheet that accompanied the filing notes only that the lawsuit is an “action for declaratory judgment and other relief relating to a spin-off transaction.”

Chemours attorneys have said the secrecy was requested by DuPont….

I wonder why? Jef Feeley and Michael Leonard, Bloomberg, June 28, 2019, 4:30 PM EDT Updated on June 28, 2019, 5:56 PM EDT, Chemours Calls DuPont Clean-Up Estimates `Spectacularly’ Off,

Chemours Co. claims its former parent DuPont Inc.’s estimates on liabilities the spun-off company should cover were “spectacularly wrong” and wants a judge to block the chemical maker’s requests for “unlimited indemnity.”

It would be very interesting to see if DuPont redacted anything about its operations near Starke, and its other three mines in north Florida.

Meanwhile, what should we believe about whether TPM plans to ship ore to Starke to be processed?

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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