WWALS Watershed Coalition

WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS) is Suwannee RIVERKEEPER® WWALS advocates for conservation and stewardship of the Withlacoochee, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Little, and Upper and Lower Suwannee River watersheds in south Georgia and north Florida through education, awareness, environmental monitoring, and citizen activities.

WWALS
Home

Strip mine proposed near Okefenokee wildlife refuge 2019-07-18 [Up]

A news article about the proposed titanium mine near the Okefenokee Swamp.


Tribune & Georgian

Strip mine proposed near Okefenokee wildlife refuge

Mindy Morris
mmorris@tribune-georgian.com

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.

Alex Kearns
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).


Both of these meetings are put on by the miners: they are not public hearings organized by any agency with power over the application.

That first meeting is actually in the Auditorium.

Meetings in August 2019

Upcoming in August 2019 are two Public Meetings by Twin Pines Minerals (these are not public hearings; no decision-making government body is involved in organizing these miners' meetings):

  • 5:30-8:30 PM, Tuesday, August 13, Auditorium, 68 Kingsland Drive, Folkston, GA,
    Come early at 4PM. Bring pictures of people with animals and plants or bring a sign if you can.
    facebook event
  • 5:30-8:30 PM, Wednesday, August 14, Fire Station Number 2, 13063 Florida Avenue, St. George, GA.
    Come early at 4PM. Bring pictures of people with animals and plants or bring a sign if you can.
    facebook event

This one is a decision-making governmental body:

  • 6PM, Thursday, August 15, Charlton County Commission, 68 Kingsland Drive, Folkston, GA.
    They have already drafted a resolution in support of the mine.
    Local people especially, please come say you don't want that,
    or at least ask the county to insist on an Environmental Impact Statement first.
    No demonstration outside, please; just come in, politely listen, and speak.

Suggestion from St. Mary's Earthkeepers, plus Suwannee:

Feel free to use the following “talking points” in your email:

  • The Okefenokee Swamp/National Wildlife Refuge/Wilderness is NOT a suitable location for a titanium mine. The Swamp is considered one of the "Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia", is the largest blackwater swamp in North America, and has been designated a National Natural Landmark.
  • The health of the St. Marys and Suwannee Rivers depends on the integrity of the Okefenokee Swamp, myriad species rely on its wellbeing, and tourism in the area is an economic boon to our region.
  • The Twin Pines mining project presents unnecessary and unacceptable risks, and I urge the Charlton County Commissioners to oppose this project unless and until a thorough Environmental Impact study shows that no harm will be done to the Swamp, its tributaries, rivers, and future. I am joined in my concern by the Georgia Conservancy, the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Suwannee Riverkeeper, and over 20 other regional and national environmental organizations.

From the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

“We have concerns that the proposed project poses substantial risks for significant affect to the environment. Should impacts occur they may not be able to be reversed, repaired, or mitigated for."

"Titanium is a common mineral, while the Okefenokee is a very uncommon swamp."

"This will likely change its properties and the hydrology of the area."

Please email the following people and ask that your message be shared with all Commissioners.

COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR, HAMPTON RAULERSON
hraulerson@charltoncountyga.gov

County Clerk, Jennifer Nobles
jnobles@charltoncountyga.gov

Chairman James E. Everett
jevephotochristianbooks@windstream.net

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!

Pictures

Tribune & Georgian

[Front page]
Front page

[Page 8A]
Page 8A