GA-EPD issues draft permit for TiO2 strip mine near the Okefenokee Swamp 2024-02-09

Update 2024-02-21: Okefenokee bills, Georgia legislature 2024-02-21.

Updated 2024-02-12: Today GA-EPD updated its Public Notice to day 60 days (instead of 30 days) for the public comment period. So that appears to mean the revised final comment date is April 9, 2024.

Four years after the original application, and two weeks after publishing the miners’ revised mining plan, GA-EPD has published a draft permit for the strip mine for titanium dioxide too near the Okefenokee Swamp.

You have 30 60 days from today, February 9, 2024 to comment to GA-EPD:
twinpines.comment@dnr.ga.gov

There will be an online zoom public meeting at 6PM on March 5, 2024.
https://gaepd.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ff7nrdELQPOr0DaPwfxK3A

You can encourage the Georgia legislature to pass legislation to prevent more such mines:
https://www.gawater.org/okefenokee-swamp

And it’s a safe bet that if GA-EPD approves the final permits, lawsuits will fly.

[TPM Saunders Mine Site Layout and WWALS Aerial]
TPM Saunders Mine Site Layout and WWALS Aerial from January 10, 2021

Two weeks ago GA-EPD published the Twin Pines Minerals (TPM) Revised MLUP and Associated Documents.

Today, GA-EPD published GA-EPD’s Response to Draft MLUP Comments; apparently all of them back to the original MLUP comment period last year. “EPD received a total of approximately 78,747 comments, which included 115 verbal comments in the virtual public meetings and 78,632 written comments received by email or mail.”

Also today, GA-EPD published Twin Pines Draft Permits and Public Notice. The permits are for surface mining, groundwater withdrawal, and air quality.

All this is on the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, web page:
https://epd.georgia.gov/twin-pines

People ask me, “Why not just deny it based on all those years of meetings and petitions, etc. etc.?”

Because this is what GA-EPD has said all along they were going to do.

And I’m asked, “Is there still a chance that the permit will be denied?”

Sure, there’s always a chance, slim though it may be. Send in those comments. Contact the Georgia governor. Get more county and city resolutions passed.

Floridians, try to convince FDEP to weigh in against the mine.

But don’t be surprised if GA-EPD issues the permits. Then be prepared to see lawsuits filed.

Your comment could be useful in those lawsuits.

How did it come to this?

In my opinion, the root of the problem is that Georgia law is vague on the burden of proof regarding threats to waterways or other important natural features. So it is easy for environmental regulators and state legislators to say opponents have not proven harm will occur without a shadow of a doubt.

It seems to me the shoe should be on the other foot.

For that to happen, Georgia could do what New York State did a couple of years ago, and what Pennsylvania and Montana did back in the 1970s. Put a human Right to Clean Water in the state constitution, in Article I next to other basic rights such as free speech.

In Florida, it is possible to get a referendum for a constitutional amendment on the ballot through a citizens petition, which is in progress.

In Georgia, both houses of the state legislature have to approve by 2/3 majorities, which is difficult. But we have participated in getting several of those passed in recent years. It can be done. And when an environmental referendum actually reaches the ballot, usually the people approve it by an overwhelming majority.

Nothing is going to happen about that in the Georgia legislature this year, because the Okefenokee issue taking all of everybody’s time.

But stay tuned.

For more about the proposed strip mine, see:
https://wwals.net/issues/titanium-mining/

For more about Right to Clean Water, see:
https://wwals.net/issues/right-to-clean-water/

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can help with clean, swimmable, fishable, drinkable, water in the 10,000-square-mile Suwannee River Basin in Florida and Georgia by becoming a WWALS member today!
https://wwals.net/donations/

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