Well, that did not take long. Only three weeks after an Assistant Secretary of the Army told the Army Corps it had to resume oversight of the proposed titanium-dioxide strip mine site too near the Okefenokee Swamp, the miners have sued the Corps. They still want to strip mine for white paint materials within three miles of the Okefenokee Swamp, an economic engine for southeast Georgia and northeast Florida, and an irreplaceable refuge for numerous land, water, and bird species. That Swamp is the headwaters of the St Marys and Suwannee Rivers, and above the Floridan Aquifer, from which we all drink in south Georgia and north Florida, including for agriculture and industry. There must be better sources of jobs for Charlton County, Georgia.
Photo: John S. Quarterman for WWALS, Twin Pines Minerals equipment on proposed mine site 2020-02-12, 30.52081, -82.1261
Mary Landers, The Current, June 27, 2022, Mining company sues Army Corps over project near Okefenokee: Twin Pines claims agency erred in overturning decision and seeking Muscogee Nation’s input.
Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals filed suit against the Army Corps of Engineers last week, claiming the federal agency erred when it bowed to “stakeholder pressure” earlier this month and made it harder for the company to get permits to mine near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
…In its filing, Twin Pines maintains “The Twin Pines Approved Jurisdictional Determinations were issued in compliance with all laws, regulations, and policies — including the tribal consultation policy — in effect when they were issued.”
More specifically, the company contends that the Corps has not historically had a policy of consulting with tribes on determining its regulatory authority over wetlands.
Through its spokesperson Chip Stewart, Twin Pines declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Josh Marks, an environmental attorney who was a leader in the fight against the Dupont Company’s mining proposal’s in the 1990s, said Twin Pines “simply can’t be trusted.”
“This lawsuit is disappointing but not surprising, as it is yet another example of how TPM simply can’t be trusted,” he wrote in an email. “Right after the Corps of Engineers announced its decision, Steve Ingle, Twin Pine’s president, said he was fine with it, that Twin Pines would follow the regulations before them at any given time, he was not surprised by the change, and Twin Pines has no say in what regulatory agencies do. But now only three weeks later he has flip flopped. The most glaring previous example was when he told the Corps and the State of Georgia in certified permit applications that Twin Pines had a lease on the neighbor’s property for mining, which was totally false.”
Twin Pines’ complaint states, “The mining process is environmentally benign.”
“This flies in the face of the overwhelming scientific consensus that Twin Pines project will in fact lower the swamp’s water level, as evidenced by reports from two of the nation’s preeminent hydrologists at UGA and a letter signed by over 40 scientists last year,” Marks wrote. “And contrary to their statement that the titanium dioxide they seek is desperately needed, the largest titanium dioxide producer in the country, Chemours, stated only a few months ago that there was ample titanium dioxide supply for the next 10+ years and that they had no intent to buy or mine titanium dioxide from next to the Okefenokee.”
Marks called for Twin Pines to “abandon their plans and instead commit to permanently protect the Okefenokee for current and future generations.”
Attorneys filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Waycross on Wednesday. Mark D. Johnson of Gilbert, Harrell Sumerford & Martin P.C. in Brunswick, and Lewis Jones and John L. Fortuna of Jones Fortuna LP in Decatur are representing Twin Pines.
The complaint names both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plus five individuals within the Army and the Corps as defendants. They are: Secretary of the Army Christine E. Wormuth, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Michael L. Connor, Chief of Engineers Ltg. Scott A. Spellmon, Commander of the South Atlantic Division Jason E. Kelly, and Commander of the Savannah District Col. Joseph R. Geary.
An Army spokesman indicated the Army does not comment on ongoing litigation.
See also Drew Kann, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 27, 2022, Mining company sues over Army Corps’ ruling on Okefenokee mine,
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-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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