USACE has miners explain equipment on yard near St. George, GA 2019-10-18

Our Suwannee Riverkeeper Southwings flight of October 5, 2019, caused the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to demand Twin Pines Minerals explain their equipment site on pain of civil or criminal penalties.

[Dragline Yard Location Map]
Dragline Yard Location Map
PDF

The Corps’ Holly Ross wrote on October 9, 2019 (see also PDF): :

We received a tip that Twin Pines had started work on the project site. The WWALS has aerial imagery posted on their site of mining equipment staged. http://www.wwals net/2019/10/06/heavy-equipment-on-tpm-titanium-mining-site-near-okefenokee-swamp-2019-10-05/#more-50341

[We received a tip... WWALS has aerial imagery]
We received a tip… WWALS has aerial imagery
PDF

The area in the photos is part of the Keystone Tract, which had the delineation verified last year. The consultant states they are working entirely in uplands and will provide us with a map showing the delineation and this new constructed work area to demonstrate the work is all in uplands. I spoke with Cindy shortly after I sent the email and she has staff on the site now who were out there performing plant surveys who will be surveying the work area today and expecting to get us the requested map by the end of the week or early next week.

Thanks to the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) for the FOIA that retrieved this information. Amusingly, the Corps seems to have redacted the WWALS photograph from the response, despite leaving in the URL leading to it.

[Closeup: equipment]
Photo: John S. Quarterman for WWALS, on Southwings flight, pilot Allen Nodorft, Closeup: equipment, 12:41 PM, Saturday, October 5, 2019.

The Corps Warning Letter to the miners

Earlier that same day, Ms. Ross wrote to the miners, attaching a warning on letterhead (see PDF). The emphasis on dollar value of fines is in the original.

Dear Mr. Ingle:

We have recently received information that you have constructed what appears to be a construction workspace and equipment staging area on your property located east of T-Model Road and North of Georgia Highway 94 (Latitude 30.52081, Longitude -82.1261) Saint George, Charlton County, Georgia. This project has been assigned number SAS-2018-00554. Please refer to this number in any future correspondence.

Based on our review of the information received, you are cautioned that your project may involve work in waters of the United States that are considered to be within the jurisdiction of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The placement of dredged or fill material into any waterways and/or their adjacent wetlands, including material re- deposited during mechanized land clearing or excavation of those wetlands, would likely require prior Department of the Army authorization. Proceeding with such work, without proper authorization, may result in our initiating a CWA enforcement action. The performance of unauthorized work may subject you to civil and/or criminal prosecution. Civil fines of up to $10,000 per day of violation and criminal fines of up to $50,000 per day of violation may be assessed, along with imprisonment. Injunctive relief, including restoration of any disturbed area may also be required.

[You are cautioned... civil fines... criminal fines....]
You are cautioned… civil fines… criminal fines….
PDF

Please be aware that the required coordination under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act as well as Tribal consultation has not been completed on your pending Individual Permit application for the Twin Pines Minerals, LLC mining operation. Commencing work in uplands prior to issuance of a permit decision from our office may affect the outcome of these coordination procedures and/or delay a permit decision.

We request that you provide us with the following within 30 days of the date of this letter, so that we can determine if the work being conducted is in an area subject to our jurisdiction:

  1. Plan view drawing of the constructed and proposed work.
  2. Any information you have regarding wetlands, streams, or other waters at the site overlaid on the plan view drawing of the constructed and proposed work.

A copy of this letter is being provided to the environmental consultant on your pending permit application: Ms. Cindy House-Pearson, TTL, Incorporated, via email at chpearson@ttlusa.com. To avoid any potential violations at the site, we recommend you consult with your environmental consultant to evaluate the property for the presence of jurisdictional waters and wetlands, prior to performing any work at the site.

To learn more about our program you may want to access our website located at http://www.sas.usace.army.mil/regulatory.

Thank you in advance for completing our on-line Customer Survey Form located at http://corpsmapu.usace.army.mil/cm_apex/f?p=regulatory_survey. We value your comments and appreciate your taking the time to complete a survey each time you have interaction with our office.

If you have any questions, please contact Ms. Holly Ross, at 678-422-2727 or holly.a.ross@usace.army.mil.

Sincerely,
 
William M. Rutlin
Chief, Coastal Branch

TTL responds for TPM

On October 18, 2019, TTL of Tuscaloosa, Alabama responded for Twin Pines Minerals of Birmingham, Alabama (see also PDF).

They included a letter from USACE of December 18, 2018, identifying “the delineation limits of all aquatic resources within the review area.”

They included a letter from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) with an updated Official Species List that “includes the Red-cockaded Woodpecker (endangered), the Eastern Indigo Snake (threatened), the gopher tortoise (candidate), and the Frosted Flatwoods Salamander (threatened).” TTL claims they did not find any of thse species, nor the striped newt, on the subject property.

TTL includes a report from TerraXplorations saying deep auger tests did not find any cultural resources, although they did find water not far down.

The TTL response for TPM is nineteen pages long, so I’m not going to transcribe the whole thing.

Images of each page are below. Click on any small image to get a larger image.

[area described... is solely... within the Keystone Property]
area described… is solely… within the Keystone Property
PDF

US FWS 2019-10-11

[List of threatened and endangered species]
List of threatened and endangered species
PDF

USACE 2018-12-18

[aquatic resources for your 1,034 acre and 1,012 acre sites located in Charlton County,]
aquatic resources for your 1,034 acre and 1,012 acre sites located in Charlton County,
PDF

TerraXplorations 2019-10-14

[Supplemental auger testing: no cultural resources]
Supplemental auger testing: no cultural resources
PDF

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!