Tag Archives: hydrology

Supporters of the Okefenokee Swamp ready to stop new strip mine application by Twin Pines Minerals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Hahira, Georgia, March 16, 2020 — The coalition of supporters of the Okefenokee Swamp against anything that would harm it stands ready to stop the new strip mine application, same as the old one.

Twin Pines Minerals (TPM) of Birmingham, Alabama, in its new application claims its proposed titanium strip mine less than three miles from the Okefenokee Swamp would be on a “reduced mining area,” which is actually 86% of what they proposed last time. They say they want to do a “demonstration” mine.

[Figure 1: Location of the Proposed Saunders Demonstration Mine]
Figure 1: Location of the Proposed Saunders Demonstration Mine
PDF

Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman says, “Let their foot in the door and it will be even harder to get rid of them later. TPM is under a Florida Consent Order along with Chemours for violations at four mines due south in north Florida. Chemours now wants a fifth Florida titanium mine on Trail Ridge. Why would we think TPM would stop with just a nibble of Trail Ridge in Georgia? Our Okefenokee Swamp with its fishing, boating, birding, and hunting nearby, is much more important than any mine, especially since it is the headwaters of the Suwannee River and the St Marys River.”

Despite TPM’s assurances, the miners have not proven their mining would not affect the groundwater, the underlying Floridan Aquifer, surface streams, or the Okefenokee Swamp.

Their application form proposes to mine 1041.7 acres, the same size tract as in their application of last year that they retracted in early January of this year. But their actual application says “TPM now wishes to conduct a demonstration mining project for a reduced mining area of approximately 898 acres.”

86% of the original acreage is not much reduced. And how is that just a demonstration?

No doubt you will hear more about that and other problems with the miners’ application from the coalition supporting the Swamp and opposing anything that would harm it. That coalition includes a wide range of organizations, Continue reading

Twin Pines Minerals mining equipment still on site near Okefenokee Swamp 2020-02-13

The miners didn’t go away from their site near the Okefenokee Swamp after they withdrew their permit application, so expect another application soon.

[Equipment zoom]
Photo: John S. Quarterman for WWALS, Equipment zoom 2020-02-12.

The miners said they would be back, in Mining company withdraws permit application for project near Okefenokee by Nedra Rhone, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 9, 2020,

“In an effort to be even more conservative in our approach than we were in our initial application, we have agreed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reduce the size of the permit area and resubmit new documentation for Continue reading

Twin Pines Minerals withdraws application to strip-mine near Okefenokee 2020-02-07

They could resubmit at any time. But for now, the Alabama mining company that is already under a Florida Consent Order along with Chemours for four mines in north Florida, Twin Pines Minerals (TPM) has withdrawn its application to mine in Georgia near the Okefenokee Swamp, the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers.

[Tribal Grounds west along GA 94 to TPM equipment, 12:38:38, 30.5257540, -82.0411100]
Photo: John S. Quarterman for https://wwals.net/blog/?p=51549&preview=trueWWALS, Tribal Grounds west along GA 94 to TPM equipment, 12:38:38, 30.5257540, -82.0411100, on Southwings flight for Suwannee Riverkeeper, pilot Allen Nodorft, 2019-10-05.

Nedra Rhone, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 7, 2020, BREAKING: Mining company withdraws permit application for project near Okefenokee,

Twin Pines Minerals, the Alabama-based company that hopes to mine acres of land near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, has withdrawn its permit application, said Billy E. Birdwell, spokesman of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Savannah district.

Continue reading

USACE has miners explain equipment on yard near St. George, GA 2019-10-18

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.

[Dragline Yard Location Map]
Dragline Yard Location Map
PDF

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. Continue reading

Baker County, FL, resident responds to Charlton County, GA, about mine proposed near Okefenokee Swamp 2020-01-14

Mark Lyons, Charlton County Herald, January 14, 2020, Letter to the Editor: Response to City of Folkston, Development Authority,

Dear Editor,

I read with curiosity the Letter to the Editor from the City Council of Folkston and the Charlton County Development Commission giving their endorsement and support of the Twin Pines mining proposal. That letter raises so many questions. Where did these two boards obtain their scientific data that the mining would not affect the swamp and the environment? Much of the information offered in their letter appears to have been spoon fed to them directly from Twin Pines. There was no mention of where they obtained the scientific data that rendered such a strong endorsement that the mining will not harm the swamp or the environment. The letter did not mention any consultants or scientist who were hired by either of these two entities to inform them there wouldn’t be any environmental damage from the mining. How many scientist sit on the city board or the development council? Did the boards hire or consult any scientist at all? What was the name of the consulting firm either the city or the development board hired to supply them the scientific data that the mining would not harm the swamp and environment? Where did the boards get their scientific data that gave them proof the mining would not harm the swamp and environment? Please, I would ask you to share such valuable data with the public.

Photo: Wayne Morgan for WWALS of Chemours mines in north Florida, looking west across Bradford County
Photo: Wayne Morgan for WWALS of Chemours mines in north Florida, looking west across Bradford County, on Southwings flight for Suwannee Riverkeeper, pilot Allen Nodorft, 2019-10-05.

How can anyone determine and say the mining will not affect the environment when Continue reading

GA-EPD: Twin Pines massive submittals short on analysis, incomplete, not sufficient, and wetland impacts not temporary 2019-12-05

“We reiterate our concern and position that an appropriate project review for 401 water quality certification is not yet possible since complete substantive and important information about the proposed hydrogeologic effects of this project relative to the surrounding landscape has not yet been submitted by the applicant. …So substantial, so massive, so transformative is the effect to wetlands contemplated at the Twin Pines site that you no longer have in place the original wetland to be impacted.” The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) wrote that to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in response to the thousands of pages of low-level data but only a few pages of analysis that Twin Pines Minerals (TPM) has sent those agencies.

Twin Pines Minerals is still failing to hoist its burden of proof that its propsosed titanium strip mine would not jeopardize this national treasure, the Okefenokee Swamp, the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers.

[Tribal Grounds west along GA 94 to TPM equipment, 12:38:38, 30.5257540, -82.0411100]
Photo: John S. Quarterman for WWALS, of Tribal Grounds west along GA 94 to TPM equipment, 12:38:38, 30.5257540, -82.0411100, on Southwings flight, pilot Allen Nodorft, 2019-10-05.
See also pictures from that flight by Wayne Morgan.

Maybe the City of Folkston and Charlton County Development Authority (CCDA) might want to rethink its assertion in the Charlton County Herald that “We would not support anything that would jeopardize this national treasure.” GA-EPD’s opinion is much like what U.S. EPA said, that the mine would have “substantial and unacceptable impact”.

CCDA wrote, Continue reading

U.S. EPA still finds Twin Pines mine will have a substantial and unacceptable impact 2019-10-03

U.S. EPA still finds that “the proposed project will have a substantial and unacceptable impact on aquatic resources of national importance.”

That’s about “the permit application submitted by Twin Pines Minerals, LLC” for a titanium strip mine. “The proposed 2,414-acre mine area lies in proximity to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), and the potential secondary effects of the mine on the NWR have not been demonstrated by the permit applicant.”

You, too, can still comment to the USACE, and all comments they receive before the Corps announces a decision can be used in any potential lawsuits.

[the proposed project will have a substantial and unacceptable impact on aquatic resources of national importance.]
the proposed project will have a substantial and unacceptable impact on aquatic resources of national importance.

The previous letter from EPA to USACE, of Continue reading

Waterkeepers Florida passes resolution against titanium mine application near Okefenokee Swamp

Waterkeepers Florida asks the Army Corps to require Twin Pines Minerals to supply all the information missing from its application for a titanium mine near the Okefenokee Swamp, to prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), to hold Public Hearings, including in Florida, and “to answer how the Corps has or will determine that the Applicant’s proposed mine would not adversely affect the Okefenokee Swamp, the St. Marys River, the Suwannee River, the Floridan Aquifer, or the State of Florida.”

You can also still comment to the Army Corps.

[TPM Equipment closeup, Wayne Morgan]
TPM Equipment closeup Photo: Wayne Morgan for Suwannee Riverkeeper on Southwings flight, pilot Allen Nodorft, 2019-10-05.

Continue reading

Full page ad by titanium miners in Charlton County Herald 2019-09-25

Update 2019-11-07: This blog post published as an op-ed in the Charlton County Herald, October 9, 2019, as Convenience of private profit is no excuse to risk Okefenokee.

[Convenience of private profit is no excuse to risk Okefenokee --Suwannee Riverkeeper]
Convenience of private profit is no excuse to risk Okefenokee –Suwannee Riverkeeper

It’s the miners who are proposing to risk the Okefenokee Swamp for their private profit, so it’s their job to provide proof, despite what the Twin Pines full page ad in the Charlton County Herald says. Alex Kearns has already made this point for St. Marys Earthkeepers in a letter to the editor. You can comment on the newspaper’s website on that one, or you can send one, too, to: editor@charltonherald.com.

[CharltonCounty-Herald 25Sept2019-0001]
CharltonCounty-Herald 25Sept2019-0001
PDF

Yet in our Suwannee Riverkeeper comments to the Corps, we have provided quite a few studies that indicate the risk, including a Florida Consent Order against the same company for similar mines in Florida.

Where are these studies Twin Pines touts in the ad? They were not in Twin Pines’ mining application, as we and many others, including U.S. EPA and GA-EPD have pointed out. When will these miners’ studies be published?

The one Twin Pines hydrogeological study I have been able to find is in a different application that this miners’ ad doesn’t mention: for groundwater withdrawal and use. That study shows the 4.32 million gallons per day the miners’ want (more than twice all the current permitted water withdrawals in Charlton County) would lower the level of the Floridan Aquifer under the Swamp.

[Figure 8. Drawdown 2930 days]
Figure 8. Drawdown 2930 days

At the August 13, 2019 miners’ meeting in Folkston, GA, Steve Ingle claimed the mine would not affect the Floridan Aquifer, and the miners’ hydrologist Mark Tanner claimed there would be no cone of depression under the Swamp, both on video. This was two weeks after the same company had filed its withdrawal application with a hydrology report that clearly depicts a cone of depression extending under the Swamp. A report authored by the same two hydrologists who were at the August 13th meeting: Robert M. Holt and J. Mark Tanner.

The same miners’ hydrologists also repeatedly refused to guarantee there would be no effect on the Suwannee River, despite the ad’s claims of “100% certainty.”

Pretty much every other point in that ad is similarly easily rebuttable.

It’s curious they didn’t mention their biggest selling point: Continue reading

GA-EPD cites Suwannee Riverkeeper and US EPA against TPM titanium mine near Okefenokee Swamp 2019-09-12

GA-EPD told USACE the mining application is incomplete, asked for comments to be reopened, and cited Suwannee Riverkeeper and Georgia River Network:

“Understanding that groundwater hydrologic effects associated with the Twin Pines project have been a central concern expressed by federal resource/regulatory agencies, NGOs (e.g. the Suwannee Riverkeeper and Georgia River Network), and the public at large, we respectfully submit that the 404/401 permit application as submitted thus far is not complete since it lacks full information and findings regarding hydrogeologic factors on site and post-project effects to hydrogeology/groundwater. We feel that it is inappropriate and premature to close the project comment window when such notable elements of the environmental documentation for this project have not yet been made available. documentation which we at GaEPD judge to be important to our review of this project.”

[the 404/401 permit application as submitted thus far is not complete]
the 404/401 permit application as submitted thus far is not complete

This was revealed by USACE in a Public Notice of September 17, 2019. So far, this is the only update posted by the Corps since it closed comments on September 12, 2019.

It also includes comments by U.S. EPA, also saying the application is incomplete, and also cited by GA-EPD. EPA cites cumulative effects and notes numerous lacking documents and studies. EPA concludes:

“Due to the potential for the proposed Twin Pines Minerals mine to adversely affect the hydrology of the Okefenokee NWR, the EPA believes that there is the potential for this project as proposed to cause adverse effects to water quality and the life stages of aquatic life or other wildlife dependent on aquatic systems. The EPA finds that this project, as proposed, may result in substantial and unacceptable impacts to aquatic resources of national importance, as covered in Part IV. paragraph 3(a) of the August 1992 Memorandum of Agreement between the EPA and the Department of the Army regarding CWA Section 404(q).”

Apparently USACE is at least listening to the public and the public and NGOs such as Suwannee Riverkeeper.

You can still send in comments. The Corps won’t say they will read them, but they explicitly won’t say they won’t read them, so keep sending them in, and publish them on social media, as op-eds, etc. Continue reading