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.
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
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.
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.
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:
- Plan view drawing of the constructed and proposed work.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com.
William M. Rutlin
Chief, Coastal Branch
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.
Help Suwannee Riverkeeper save the Okefenokee Swamp
You can object to a titanium strip mine proposed far too near the Swamp.
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/
These are the Georgia state Senators with districts most involved with the Okefenokee Swamp:
- District 003 Senator Sheila McNeil (R-Brunswick) (Brantley County), (404) 656-9644, 912.464.1989, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com With the new redistricting, District 3 will include all of Charlton County, including the mine site.
- District 008, Senator Russ Goodman (R-Lake Park) (Lowndes, Lanier, Echols, Clinch, Cook, Brooks, and Thomas Counties), (404) 656-7454, 912-218-0447, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com With the new redistricting, Senate District 8 no longer will include any of Charlton County, so not the mine site, but it will include the south and west parts of Ware County, so the Okefenokee Swamp west of the mine site.
- District 007 Senator Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) (Tift, Berrien, Irwin, Ben Hill, Coffee, Bacon, Atkinson, Ware, and Charlton Counties), (404) 463-5263, firstname.lastname@example.org. His district includes the Okefenokee Swamp, and he is the Chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee. With the new redistricting, Senate District 7 goes away entirely, being absorbed by District 8 and District 3.
These are the Georgia state Representatives with districts most involved:
- 174, John Corbett, R - Lake Park, 404-656-0213, email@example.com. District 174 district includes the mine site. With the new redistricting, it will also include the rest of Charlton County.
- 180, Steven Sainz, R - Woodbine, 404.656.0177, firstname.lastname@example.org, Charlton and Ware Counties. With the new redistricting, District 180 will not include any of Charlton County; only Camden County and a bit of Glynn County.
- 176, James Burchett, R - Waycross, 404.656.0188, email@example.com, Lowndes, Lanier, Atkinson, and Ware Counties. With the new redistricting, also a bit of Coffee County.
- 177, Dexter Sharper, D - Valdosta, 404.656.0126, firstname.lastname@example.org, Lowndes County. Valdosta is the most populous city in the Suwannee River Basin in Georgia or Florida.
You can also write to your U.S. Representative or Senator and ask them to urge the Corps to take back up its oversight of the mine site. See former letter from Rep. Al Lawson (FL-05).
For the requested Georgia 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, email@example.com
Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division, Water Protection Branch, 7 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Atlanta, Georgia 30334.
Be sure to mention Applicant: Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, Application Number: SAS-2018-00554.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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:
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!