Baker County, FL, resident responds to Charlton County, GA, about mine proposed near Okefenokee Swamp 2020-01-14

Mark Lyons, Charlton County Herald, January 14, 2020, Letter to the Editor: Response to City of Folkston, Development Authority,

Dear Editor,

I read with curiosity the Letter to the Editor from the City Council of Folkston and the Charlton County Development Commission giving their endorsement and support of the Twin Pines mining proposal. That letter raises so many questions. Where did these two boards obtain their scientific data that the mining would not affect the swamp and the environment? Much of the information offered in their letter appears to have been spoon fed to them directly from Twin Pines. There was no mention of where they obtained the scientific data that rendered such a strong endorsement that the mining will not harm the swamp or the environment. The letter did not mention any consultants or scientist who were hired by either of these two entities to inform them there wouldn’t be any environmental damage from the mining. How many scientist sit on the city board or the development council? Did the boards hire or consult any scientist at all? What was the name of the consulting firm either the city or the development board hired to supply them the scientific data that the mining would not harm the swamp and environment? Where did the boards get their scientific data that gave them proof the mining would not harm the swamp and environment? Please, I would ask you to share such valuable data with the public.

Photo: Wayne Morgan for WWALS of Chemours mines in north Florida, looking west across Bradford County
Photo: Wayne Morgan for WWALS of Chemours mines in north Florida, looking west across Bradford County, on Southwings flight for Suwannee Riverkeeper, pilot Allen Nodorft, 2019-10-05.

How can anyone determine and say the mining will not affect the environment when Twin Pines itself has not submitted their hydrology studies/reports to anyone? Does the city or development board have copies of any hydrology studies/reports from Twin Pines? Because if they do, I will expediently be public record requesting copies of those. I have been requesting copies of hydrology studies and reports for months now to no avail. Hydrology is a big part of the environment and it’s a big part of this mining and it’s impossible to know if the Twin Pines mining will harm the environment or not because they have furnished no hydrology studies/reports. Let’s also not forget that Twin Pines is named in a Consent Order here in North Florida for destroying wetlands without permits. That’s environmental damage and law breaking to boot. I wonder if they told Bradford County Fl officials they wouldn’t harm the environment there?

In the letter it stated “We trust the experts at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to ensure the mining project is safe and protective of the Okefenokee.” My goodness, where do I start. The US Army Corps issues permits. The 2 permits the Army Corps will issue for this project protect nothing. The two permits 401 & 404 (if issued) will be to DESTROY WETLANDS on the mining site with the ‘promise’ to reconstruct them during reclamation years down the road and the other permit will be to DISCHARGE WASTEWATER from the mine that will flow to the St. Mary’s River. These two permits protect very little of the environment. Turning a wetland that took millions of years to form upside down to mine and then trying to put it back to function like it did before it was mined is like de-boning a live chicken and then telling it to get up and walk around. If the city & development boards want to put their trust and confidence in an agency that actually protects the environment they should seriously consider listening to what the US EPA has already said about this project. The agency that is responsible for laws like the Clean Water & Clean Air Acts and responsible for environmental protection. The agency that just recently released another statement concerning Twin Pines mining proposal that said- “U.S. EPA still finds that “the proposed project will have a substantial and unacceptable impact on aquatic resources of national importance.” (The Okefenokee Swamp)

Mark Lyons

Baker County, FL

Map of Twin Pines proposed mine site and extended property next to Okefenokee NWR, by Georgia Conservancy.
Map of Twin Pines proposed mine site and extended property next to Okefenokee NWR, by Georgia Conservancy.

You can send in your own letter to the editor:

Email editor@charltonherald.com
to submit a letter to the editor!

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.

All about that proposed TPM titanium mine next to the Okefenokee Swamp:
wwals.net/issues/titanium-mining/

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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