Update 2022-10-06: GA-DNR Board does not discuss mining near Okefenokee Swamp 2022-09-27.
Last Friday Interior Secretary Deb Haaland toured to Okefenokee Swamp, along with Georgia U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff.
I was there with some others, including St. Marys Riverkeeper Emily Floore, to be seen as the dignitaries lunched under a tent.
The mine site is in the St. Marys River Basin, but the lunch site at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge headquarters is in the Suwannee River Basin, and something more than 80% of the Swamp drains to the Suwannnee River Basin. The Swamp interchanges water with the underlying Floridan Aquifer, from which everybody in south Georgia and north Florida drinks. Anything that affects the water level or contents of the Swamp will affect both the St Marys and Suwannee Rivers.
These coal miners from Alabama, Twin Pines Minerals, LLC (TPM), got a Consent Order slapped on them in Florida for leaking wastewater, and not doing required tests and reports. During Hurricane Irma, Twin Pines sites in Florida were the only pollution spills in the Suwannee River Basin, other than a couple of overturned trucks.
The TPM president started two biomass plants in north Georgia, one of which caused a massive fish kill, and both of which caused the state to literally pass a law to stop them burning railroad ties.
Does that sound like a company you want strip mining near the Okefenokee Swamp?
They already have a dragline set up on their proposed mine site. Please do what you can to protect the Swamp
In the tent, environmental attorney Josh Marks reminded Deb Haaland that Dupont tried to mine near the Swamp two decades ago. He urged her to do what then-Secretary Bruce Babbitt did, when he said there should be no mine, and that ended that.
Current Secretary Haaland did not make a statement.
One of her assistants did accept a gift from MarthaJane Winkler on behalf of the Cherokee Tribe of Georgia, whose Tribal Grounds are a few miles east of the mine site, near St. George. Their fall pow wow is coming up October 6-8, 2022. Maybe Deb Haaland will attend that and have a change of heart.
Meanwhile, now that a judge has thrown the permitting hot potato back from the Army Corps to the the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD), GA-EPD could issue a draft permit any time and start a 60-day comment period.
You can send comments even before then, tens of thousands of people already have, and the more who do the more likely the permits will not be issued.
A majority of Georgians have been to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge or plan to visit in the near future. Two thirds think the Georgia Governor should take immediate action to protect the Swamp and the legislature should pass a law protecting it.
You can use this convenient Georgia Water Coalition form to send a message to your statehouse members:
Or use this Waterkeeper Alliance form to send a message to the Governor and other elected and appointed officials:
Or write to them individually:
If you’ve got the time, come be seen by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Board at their meeting at the Eco-Lodge in Fargo this Tuesday, 9 AM, September 27, 2022. There’s nothing about the Swamp or the Suwannee River Basin on their agenda, so we probably won’t get to speak. But they will notice people who politely sit there. And if you come early you may get to talk to some of them.
If you don’t know the Swamp, let Janisse Ray tell you about it. Some of the history she recounts didn’t really happen that way, and there are a lot more people and organizations involved than she mentions, but the pith of her story is correct.
I first visited the swamp when I was a kid, on a school field trip. I’ve paddled it many times since then. I’ve crossed it twice by kayak — 31 miles east to west of bellowing alligators, titanium-white waterlilies, and wading birds. If anything will knock you to your knees, it’s the gray and scarlet perfection of sandhill cranes.
And the root of the problem:
Here is a disadvantaged, rural place, and a corporation sweeps in promising jobs. Trees will get cut. Wetlands will be drained. Great growly machines will dig far down into the earth, grabbing bucketfuls of white sand that used to be the bottom of the ocean and filling dump trucks with it. The pit will widen and deepen. Mining will rip apart and destroy the clay layers and water-filled basins of Trail Ridge, as well as end the centuries-long conversation between the Okefenokee and its surrounding wetlands.
It’s encouraging to read a Charlton County Commissioner now denies what the resolution they passed back in 2019 plainly says: they support the miners, because of the promise of jobs. Maybe the Commissioners are having second thoughts.
This is Cypress Creek, draining much of the Okefenokee Swamp to the Suwannee River.
Please do what you can to protect the Swamp.
For much more about this unwanted mine, see:
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®