Mindy Morris, Tribune & Georgian, July 18, 2019, Strip mine proposed near Okefenokee wildlife refuge,
It’s not the first time Okefenokee swamp became the pointed interest of a mining operation. DuPont Co, attempted in the 1990s and agreed to end their plan after a roughly $90 million deal. That deal was supposed to protect from future mining. Less than 20 years later, Twin Peaks [Pines] Minerals is proposing a strip mine.
(It’s) a project that
threatens the very
existence of the
Okefenokee swamp and
the St. Marys River.
St. Marys EarthKeepers
The St. Marys EarthKeepers, an environmental group focused on coastal Georgia, posted a rally cry on their public Facebook page regarding the proposed Twin Pines Minerals strip mine. Alex Kearns, with the St. Marys EarthKeepers, called it “a project that threatens the very existence of the Okefenokee swamp and the St. Marys River.”
While supporters of the plan will point to the jobs of 300 full-time workers and the projected tax revenue, environmentalists and other interest groups, such as those opposing timber and mining, the tourism industry, local governments and Indian tribes, look at the long-term and damage to the ecosystem.
National Geographic has called Okefenokee swamp one of the top 100 most beautiful places in the world and those groups want it to remain that way.
Twin Pines Minerals recently proposed the mining of high quality heavy mineral reserves for export by truck, rail and eventual barge to national and international customers. If approved, the mining is anticipated to begin in January
The plan specifies roughly 19 square miles along the ridge of land bordering the refuge. The company will dig to variable depths that will average 50 feet below the land service on two of the three tracts and 25 feet below the surface on the third. Even though they have a replanting plan, it takes time to reestablish a developed system.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which operates the refuge, will focus their response on the effects of strip mining on the area’s hydrology, the underground movement of water. That intricate water system feeds the St. Marys River.
However, there are numerous species — such as the threatened gopher tortoise — that rely on the St. Marys River and the habitats on Cumberland Island and Crooked River to make their homes.
In 2003, DuPont donated all 16,000 acres to The Conservation Fund, according to the conservationfund.org. International Paper, who at the time owned the property’s timber and recreational rights, agreed to permanently relinquish its acquisition rights, which the public believed would prevent mining of the property in the future.
In 2005, the fund transferred almost 7,000 acres to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an addition to Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and a conservation easement on that portion of the property to Georgia Wildlife Federation, furthering its protection.
Public hearings will be held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13 in the Charlton County Board of Commissioners’ Meeting Room (68 Kingsland Drive, Folkston) and at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 14, in the fire- house in St. George (13063 Florida Avenue).
Those are public meetings put on by the miners. They are not public hearings organized by any agency with authority to stop the mine.
That first meeting is actually in the Auditorium. There are also WWALS facebook events.
For the mining application, how to comment, more news, etc. see wwals.net/issues/titanium-mining/.
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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