Titanium Mining

Most known information is collected here: wwals.net/pictures/2019-07-12–tpm-usace

[TPM: Charlton County, GA, Trail Ridge, Bradford County, FL]
TPM: Charlton County, GA, Trail Ridge, Bradford County, FL

Documents

Thanks to the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) for obtaining the complete application.

Related documents:

How to Comment

The current comment deadline is September 12, 2019.

To comment, or to request a public hearing, you can write to Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, Attention: Ms. Holly Ross, 1104 North Westover Boulevard, Suite 9, Albany, Georgia, 31707, or by email to holly.a.ross@usace.army.mil. Please refer to the applicant’s name and the application number in your comments: Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, 2100 Southbridge Parkway, Birmingham, Alabama 35209, Application Number: SAS-2018-00554.

For the requested state permit regarding Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, you can send a comment or request for public hearing to Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division, Water Protection Branch, 7 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Atlanta, Georgia 30334.

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

Blog posts and Summaries

Summaries

  • Georgia Conservancy, Mining Threatens the Okefenokee Swamp

    Trail Ridge and Okefenokee NWR

  • St. Marys Earthkeepers, A Threat to the Okefenokee Swamp,

    Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, (Birmingham, Alabama) wants to mine on the sandy ridge that serves as the eastern edge of the immense bowl-like depression that retains the water of the swamp. Twin Pines' plan initially calls for mining on about 4 square miles, but the company said that it eventually wants to expand to about 19 square miles. The process to be used is a form of strip-mining and will alter the soil composition of the area — which, in turn, will hamper drainage and alter the hydrology.

    The Okefenokee Swamp/National Wildlife Refuge/Wilderness is NOT a suitable location for a project of this nature. It 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 River 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. In those respects, it is very much a matter of concern for this city Council. (The St. Marys River is born of the River Styx. Note the proximity of the headwaters to the proposed mining site in the attached image.)

    It is the St. Marys EarthKeepers' position that the Twin Pines mining project presents unnecessary and unacceptable risks, and that the application should be denied—unless and until a full Environmental Impact Study indicates that absolutely no harm will come to the Okefenokee Swamp, its tributaries, species, rivers, and future. We are joined in our concern by the Georgia Conservancy, SELC, 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.”

  • One Hundred Miles, Take Action to Protect Okefenokee Swamp

    Twin Pines Minerals has requested permits to begin mining for titanium along Trail Ridge, the ancient geologic formation that forms the eastern boundary of the swamp. This proposal will recklessly affect over 500 acres of wetlands in a 2,400-acre site, with an eventual expansion to another 10,000 acres. They propose to excavate deep soils (up to 50 feet below the surface), significantly impacting the flow of water in and around the swamp. Such major alterations likely cannot be reversed, repaired, or mitigated.....

  • National Wildlife Refuge Association, 9 August 2019, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge Threatened by Proposed Strip Mine,

    ...This permit application is reminiscent of a proposal made by DuPont over 20 years ago. Outrage over the possible impact to the refuge resulted in DuPont terminating their plans. Twin Pines is proposing to try again and the threat to the refuge and the nearby St. Mary's River are greater than ever.

    Possible impacts include changes to the hydrology resulting from a disruption of the soil and sand ridge next to the refuge. Application is also being made for use of groundwater for the mining operation which could further alter the hydrology of the Swamp. Water is critical to the well being of Okefenokee — lowered or altered water levels could easily change the unique ecology of the Swamp. Public use and Wilderness values could be impacted due to the close proximity of the mining activity. Air quality and loss of hundreds of acres of wetlands are anticipated.

    The Okefenokee Swamp is one of the world's largest blackwater swamp ecosystems. Miraculously, it has remained almost entirely intact. The Swamp thus provides unique opportunities for scientific research on hydrology, plant ecology, fish and amphibian populations, and other wildlife. Over 700,00 people visit the Refuge each year generating an estimated 750 jobs in the region and over $64 million in revenue annually. Recognized worldwide as a Wetland of International Importance and designated as Wilderness by the U.S. Congress the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is a resource too precious to be risked for relatively short term gain. All of these possible impacts need to be thoroughly evaluated before issuing a permit....

  • 2019-08-24: WCTV on mining proposed near Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge 2019-08-21

    “Because of the coal plants in Georgia, there's mercury deposition on the surface of the ground for years. If they go stir all that up, that could run in to the swamp,” said Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman. “Why should we risk the Okefenokee, its boating, its fishing, its birding.”

    [Sign]
    Photo: John S. Quarterman, Okefenokee NWR Entrance Sign, 2019-07-18

WWALS blog posts

News

The word is starting to get out. Here are links to news stories, followed by Editorials, Op-Eds, and Associated Press.

If you know of a story, editorial, etc. that is not in here, please send it to contact@suwanneeriverkeeper.org.

  • 2019-07-15: Emily Jones, Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB Radio News), 15 July 2019, Mining Proposed Near Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
    (WWALS blog post: GPB on mining proposal near Okefenokee NWR 2019-07-15)
  • 2019-07-16: Mary Landers, SavannahNow, July 15, 2019, Strip mining planned next to Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge; contains 300 jobs promise by miners
  • 2019-07-16: Emily Jones and Rickey Bevington, Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB Radio News), 16 July 2019, Corps Of Engineers Seeks Public Comment On Okefenokee Mining
  • 2019-07-16: Alexander Osiadacz, FirstCoastNews (WTLV TV, Jacksonville, FL), July 16, 2019, Titanium mine proposed near Okefenokee Refuge: An Alabama company – Twin Pines Minerals – applied for a permit with the Army Corps of Engineers to mine the area for titanium.
  • 2019-07-18: Mindy Morris, Tribune-Georgia (St. Mary's, GA), July 18, 2019, Strip mine proposed near Okefenokee wildlife refuge,

    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.”

  • 2019-07-19: Emily Jones, Georgia Public Broadcasting, July 19, 2019, Army Corps Extends Comment Deadline On Mining Near Okefenokee (WWALS blog post: Deadline Extended to September 12 on mining proposal near Okefenokee NWR 2019-07-19),

    The Army Corps of Engineers is extending the deadline for public comments on a proposal to mine for minerals near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

    The new deadline is Sept. 12, an additional 30 days from the original deadline of Aug. 13.

    Environmental groups were calling for the deadline extension.

    ....

  • 2019-07-29: Marla Ogletree, Charlton County Herald, 23 July 2019, Twin Pines seeks permit for heavy mineral mining in Okefenokee area (WWALS blog post)
  • 2019-08-09: Nedra Rhone, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mining proposal raises concerns about future of Okefenokee Swamp
  • 2019-08-12: Austen Erblat, South Florida Sun Sentinel, 12 August 2019, Federal report shows wildlife refuge added millions to Palm Beach County’s economy,

    ...According to the study, the refuge saw the second-most visitors, supported the second-highest number of jobs and contributed the second-most amount of money to its local economy of all national wildlife refuges in Florida, after Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, which spans parts of northern Florida and southern Georgia....

  • 2019-08-13: David Pendered, Saporta Report, 12 August 2019, Okefenokee Swamp: Proposed sand mine may have national security implications,

    ... The Commerce Department initiated in March an investigation into whether national security is threatened by the “quantity or circumstances” of the import of one stage of the material, called titanium sponge, according to a Commerce Department statement. The Department of Defense supports the investigation.

    This is the at least the second such investigation into titanium imports in recent years. both investigations were initiated after complaints were filed by Titanium Metals Corp.

    In 2017, the U.S. International Trade Commission voted to end a complaint filed by TMC over titanium imports. That complaint contended two countries were dumping material into the United States, with Kazakhstan allegedly subsidizing prices of titanium exported to the U.S. by Japan and Kazakhstan....

    More in the article about most comments have been about titanium for paint, but that's not its only use, and there is already titanium importing, including through Savannah.

  • 2019-08-14: Emily Jones, Georgia Public Broadcasting, 14 August, 2019, 150 Attend Information Session On Mining Near Okefenokee,

    TTM hydrogeolgist Bob Holt, by Emily Jones, GPB
    Hydrogeologist Bob Holt discusses how a proposed mine would affect underground water near the Okefenokee.
    EMILY JONES / GPB NEWS

    ...hydrogeologist Bob Holt, who is consulting for Twin Pines.

    "The thing that I'm committed to doing is to make sure that the model that I build is constructed thoughtfully, that good scientific practice is applied, and that it's not rushed to meet a deadline," he said.

    Holt expects the detailed computer model will back up his preliminary finding that the new methods they use will have a minimal impact.

    But many were not convinced. Joanna Jacobs has roots in the area and traveled from Atlanta to Folkston for the meeting. She was concerned that the science on the project isn't ready yet.

    "I'm not a fearmongerer,” Jacobs said. “I'm just highly concerned about an unproven method coming into a natural habitat that we can't put back."

    Company head Steven Ingle said the finished data will be available before the public comment period ends Sept. 12.

  • 2019-08-14: Gordon Jackson, Brunswick News, 14 August 2019, Twin Pines explains plans to mine near Okefenokee,

    ...A biologist, Cindy House-Pearson, explained how the mining process will include restoring wetlands and plant life after an area has been mined. The process includes digging a pit about 100 feet wide and 500 feet long. The depth dug will be anywhere from 10 to 70 feet.

    House-Pearson said there is little wildlife, including endangered red cockaded woodpeckers in the area, which burned in a wildfire several years ago.

    “There's not really a whole lot out there right now,” she said.

    Dirk Stevenson, another consultant, said gopher tortoises, which are considered threatened by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, will be relocated.

    “We will follow the guidance and directions of the DNR,” he said.

    Other species such as snakes, amphibians and reptiles will likely move once heavy equipment is close by....

    And where will those snakes, amphibians, and reptiles move to?

    Alex Kearns, chair of the St. Marys EarthKeepers, asked about impacts to local hunt clubs and Native American artifacts in the area.

    “They're not able to answer some of the hardest questions,” she said. “I have real concerns about Native American artifacts.”

    Kearns also called for an independent environmental study before mining is approved.

    Rena Peck Stricker, executive director of the Georgia River Network, traveled from her Atlanta office to attend the meeting.

    She is among those who believe Trail Ridge, a geological formation that stretches along the eastern edge of the refuge, acts as a dam to keep the Okefenokee as a swamp.

    Stricker said she is not surprised Twin Pines is making the second attempt in two decades to mine near the swamp, which attracts an estimated 600,000 visitors a year at all the entrances and Stephen Foster State Park.

    “I think they feel like the technology is different now,” she said. “I'm still concerned about the Trail Ridge impacts.”

  • 2019-08-14: Alexander Osiadacz, FirstCoast News, Published: 4:56 PM EDT August 14, 2019, Updated: 6:16 PM EDT August 14, 2019, Public concern over proposed titanium strip mine near Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge: Just outside the boundary of the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge is where Twin Pines, an Alabama mining company wants to setup shop.

    FOLKSTON, Ga. — A titanium deposit is at the center of a major debate in southeast Georgia.

    The site borders a national wildlife refuge and it's where a company wants to put a mine. Over a hundred people packed a question-and-answer meeting Tuesday hosted by that company.

    “This place is priceless and it's irreplaceable,” Christian Hunt, Southeast Program Associate at Defenders of Wildlife said.

    Just outside the boundary of the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge is where Twin Pines, an Alabama mining company wants to set up shop, digging for a resource that could be worth a lot of money.

    Titanium dioxide — a heavy metal used to make white pigment — is abundant in the sands. Locals and environmentalists are concerned.

    “At risk is a wetland of global importance," Hunt said. "This is a fully functional, vibrant ecosystem.”

    Hunt was among those who attended Tuesday night's public meeting with mining representatives.

    A statement from the company says it has identified species that could be affected where a habitat was identified, a targeted survey was conducted.

    “My primary conclusion that I drew from last night is that there are too many unknowns,” Hunt said.

    The topic has also drawn the attention of U.S. Representative Earl "Buddy" Carter, who said his staff is still sorting through the facts.

    “How do you balance business with the environment and that's very difficult sometimes," Carter said. "This has been tried before and it's failed, but perhaps there is new technology out there that would now make it safer."....

  • 2019-08-14: Fron the Ground Up, YouTube, 14 August 2019, TTL Twin Pines Minerals.
  • 2019-08-14: Mary Landers, SavannahNow, 14 August 2019, Company explains its Okefenokee mining plans. Includes picture of Mark Lyons' "Welcome to the Dog and Pony Show" t-shirt, and a claim by Twin Pines Consultant Robert Holt, a hydrogeologist at the University of Mississippi: “We plan to publish our results in peer reviewed journals and that’s the gold standard in science.” That's nice. Why don't they withdraw their mining application until that study is published? -jsq
  • 2019-08-15: Dave Williams, Atlanta Business Chronicle, Georgia Conservancy raising concerns about proposed mining near Okefenokee Swamp

    ...The Georgia Conservancy is asking the Army Corps to hold a public hearing on the permit application. The federal agency has agreed to extend the public comment period on the project an additional 30 days, from Aug. 13 to Sept. 12.

  • 2019-08-15: Emily Jones, GPB, 15 August 2019, Charlton County Backs Proposed Mining Near Okefenokee,

    Photo: EMILY JONES, GPB, Charlton County Commission votes to support mining near the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge
    Charlton County Commission votes to support mining near the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge
    EMILY JONES, GPB

    The Charlton County Commission Thursday evening unanimously voted to support the proposal to mine for heavy minerals near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

    Charlton County Commissioners voted to support mining near the Okefenokee. The proclamation cited economic benefits to the county, including tax revenue and the 150 jobs promised in the permit application from Twin Pines Minerals.

    It did note the project is still subject to approval by "any other authority having jurisdiction." That includes the Army Corps of Engineers....

    In a letter sent before the county commission meeting, Suwan[n]ee Riverkeeper John Quarterman called the commission's vote "premature."

    "While I understand that everyone wants jobs, I respectfully submit that far too many things are still unknown," Quarterman wrote.

    Public comments at the meeting, following the vote, echoed that sentiment.

    Only residents of Charlton County were allowed to speak, while others could submit comments on notecards. County officials said that was because of the large number of people present, in the interest of time and to gauge how many in attendance were county residents. All the seats in the commission meeting room were full, with several people standing in the back.

    Resident Teresa Crawford grew emotional during her comments, comparing the possible economic benefits of the mine to those of the existing wildlife refuge.

    "The economic impact of the Okefenokee swamp — we have a jewel out there," she said, noting that people from other states and other countries visit the refuge. "If it gets destroyed, that economic impact is gone."

    Chief Redhawk of the Cherokee of Georgia and his assistant, Jane Winkler, also spoke. They questioned how many of the promised jobs would be local and reiterated the concern that mining could harm the swamp.

    After the meeting, Commissioner Drew Jones said he would not support a project that would devastate the Okefenokee. But he said Twin Pines has plans for environmental protections — and Charlton County needs well-paying jobs.

    "In this community, we've got a prison, we've got a landfill, as far as employers," Jones said. "The Board of Education employs 200, ballpark pay $18 an hour. So these mines, they can improve quality of life."

    The Corps is accepting public comment through Sept. 12.

    Bits of that GPB story were picked up by AP.

  • 2019-08-16: Southern Environmental Law Center, 16 August 2019, SELC shares Georgians’ concerns about proposed titanium mine near Okefenokee Swamp,

    “We have serious concerns about Twin Pines Minerals' plans for a proposed mine in such close proximity to the Okefenokee Swamp, one of Georgia's most important natural treasures,” said Senior Attorney Bill Sapp. “Before moving forward with this application, it is critically important that Twin Pines, the Corps, and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division conduct more thorough studies to ensure that any mining activities would not result in harm to this special, world-renowned place.”

    The proposal reminds many area residents of a similar plan from 20 years ago by DuPont Co. to put in a 38,000-acre mine along Trail Ridge. That plan generated so much public opposition that DuPont dropped the idea and donated about half of the proposed mine site to preservation.

    Twin Pines has hired consultants who say they've studied the company's current plans and find it “environmentally responsible,” but those reports have not been made available to the Corps or the public at this time.

    One of the actions SELC will be urging is that the Corps must demand a full Environmental Impact Statement for this project before even considering issuing a permit, as an independent, scientific review is a critical first step in ensuring there is no irrevocable harm to one of Georgia's most incredible environmental wonders.

  • 2019-08-17: Jim Tatum, Our Santa Fe River, 17 August 2019, Twin Pines Minerals Meeting a Disappointment,

    The following description is by Mark Lyons, veteran and experienced mine opponent:

    This event was like a 5th grade science fair except that 5th grade teachers probably would have had better answers than we received yesterday. I've never heard so many— probably, maybe, could, possibly, might, I'm not sure, you need to ask so ‘n so. Nothing like consulting firm employees who sit in an office all day and have never mined answering ‘mining’ questions!

    We could add an “I don't know,” answer we got several times.

  • 2019-08-20: Mary Jo Dilonardo, Mother Nature News, 20 August 2019, Proposal to mine near Okefenokee Swamp raises old fears
  • 2019-08-20: Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder,20 August 2019, Meetings last week surface debate: Could mining drain Okefenokee?,

    ...Rena Stricker, executive director of the Georgia River Network, was among the attendees of last week's meetings who said they are worried that the swamp could be drained by the mining.

    “I'm very concerned that Trail Ridge, which serves as a dam for the Okefenokee, will be compromised so that the Okefenokee (swamp) itself could be drained,” said Rena Stricker, executive director of the Georgia River Network and one of the protesters Tuesday night

    The company contends Trail Ridge is instead a hydraulic barrier to groundwater flow. At the ridge's high point the water flows east to the swamp and west to the St. Marys River.

    So is Trail Ridge a natural dam to the swamp?

    “It's not necessarily a dam,” said Fredrick Rich, a recently retired geology professor at Georgia Southern University. “The swamp would probably be there with or without Trail Ridge but the ridge almost certainly enhances the capability of the swamp's water supply to stay within the basin. “Any attempt to cut through Trail Ridge would certainly be destructive of the swamp,” he said....

  • 2019-08-21: Emma Wheeler, WCTV, 21 August 2019, Heavy mining facility proposed near Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

Editorials

Op-Eds

  • 2019-07-18: Mark Lyons, Baker County Press, July 18, 2019, Seeks comments on proposed mining

    [Op-ed-BC-Press-Twin-Pines-0001]
    Op-ed-BC-Press-Twin-Pines-0001
    PDF

    THE BAKER COUNTY Press, OPINION. LETTER TO THE EDITOR, Thursday, July 18, 2019

    Seeks comments on proposed mining

    Dear editor:

    For boating, fishing, hunting and wildlife, the Okefenokee Swamp and the St. Mary's River are local one-of-a-kind treasures famous nationwide and throughout the world. A new company called Twin Pines Minerals is proposing to operate a heavy mineral sand mining facility on approximately 12,000 acres comprised of six different tracts of land. The first mining phase is the currently proposed project area of 2,414 acres between the Okefenokee Swamp and the St. Marys River in Charlton County, Georgia. The site is located North of Georgia Highway 94, West of Georgia Highway 23, and East of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, St. George, Georgia and Charlton County, Georgia.

    During Hurricane Irma, the only industrial pollution spills in the Suwannee River Basin were accidental overflows and emergency releases from the Chemours mine on Trail Ridge in Baker and Bradford Counties.

    Do we want to risk that on Trail Ridge in Charlton County, where downhill is either the Okefenokee Swamp or the St. Marys River? The swamp and the river are everyone's recreational resort.

    The refuge, directly and indirectly, supports hundreds of jobs and over 600,000 people visit the swamp each year. About $88 million of annual expenditures can be attributed to the swamp yearly in the form of jobs, tax revenue and economic output. Mining on Trail Ridge could jeopardize an extremely important and iconic places.

    Twin Pines Minerals is based in Birmingham, Alabama. People from there warn us of the company's poor environmental record concerning coal mining. At least let's get some independent evaluation of the miners' claims of be- ing good environmental stewards. We need a thorough and sound Environmental Impact Statement. Let's encourage Charlton County commissioners to help with that.

    The next Charlton County Commission meeting is Thursday, July 18 in Folkston at 68 Kingsland Drive.

    How to Comment

    The Army Corps is soliciting comments from the public, federal, state and local agencies and officials; Native American tribes and other interested parties in order to consider and evaluate the impacts of this proposed activitiy. Any comments received will be considered by the Corps to determine whether to issue, modify, condition or deny a permit for this proposal. To make this decision, comments are used to assess impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects, and the other public interest factors listed above. Comments are used in the preparation of an environmental assessment and/or an impact statement pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. Comments are also used to determine the need for a public hearing and to determine the overall public interest of the proposed activity.

    Anyone wishing to comment on this application for a Department of the Army permit should submit comments in writing to the Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, Attention: Ms. Holly Ross, 1104 North Westover Boulevard, Suite 9, Albany, Georgia, 31707, or by email to holly.a.ross@usace.army.mil, no later than 30 days from July 12.

    Please refer to the applicant's name and the application number in your comments: Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, 2100 Southbridge Parkway, Birmingham, Alabama 35209, Application Number: SAS-2018-00554. If you have any further questions concerning this matter, please contact Ms. Ross, Project Manager, Albany Field Office at 648-422-2727 or via email at the above address.

    Mark Lyons, Glen St. Mary

  • 2019-07-20: Alice Keyes, 100 Miles, Brunswick News, Okefenokee refuge should be protected,

    Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most unique natural landscapes on the East Coast. My family, along with 600,000 guests annually, visit to bask in its vast wilderness.

    But today, the ‘land of trembling earth' has a trembling future. Mining company Twin Pines plans to mine minerals used in paint, dangerously close to our treasured swamp.

    Okefenokee lies west of Trail Ridge, an ancient sandy beachfront running parallel to Georgia's coast. Trail Ridge provides unique habitats and corridors for important species like gopher tortoises. It also serves as a natural barrier that keeps water in the swamp.

    Twin Pines' immediate plans are to mine along Trail Ridge, recklessly affecting over 500 acres of wetlands in a 2,400-acre site and eventually mining 10,000 more acres. They propose to excavate deep soils (up to 50 feet below the surface), significantly changing geologic formations created over hundreds of thousands of years and impacting the flow of water in and around the swamp. Such major alterations to a treasured natural system likely cannot be reversed, repaired, or mitigated. We cannot risk damaging our beloved Okefenokee for reckless mining.

    Now through September 12, I hope the public will join me in submitting comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responsible for issuing the company permits.

    The Corps must host a public hearing and require an Environmental Impact Statement to analyze the impacts and prevent activities that will forever alter the trembling earth that has inspired so many generations.

    Alice Keyes
    Brunswick

  • 2019-07-21: Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman, Valdosta Daily Times, page 4A, July 24, 2019, and online July 21: QUARTERMAN: Swamp, Suwannee more valuable than titanium (WWALS blog post updated for more recent developments: QUARTERMAN: Swamp, Suwannee more valuable than titanium in VDT 2019-07-23)

    ...

    “Gateway to the Okefenokee” says the sign as you exit I-75 southbound into Valdosta.

    Twin Pines Minerals promises jobs, taxes, and low impact. Yet just across the state line in Florida, miners made all those same promises, and nobody can name any local people employed.

    The miners have told multiple organizations they want to ship the ore to Starke, Florida, for processing. That's in Bradford County, between the New River and the Santa Fe River, which flows into the Suwannee River.

    During Hurricane Irma, the only pollution spills in the Suwannee River Basin in Florida (other than truck wrecks) were three from Chemours mines on Trail Ridge in Baker and Bradford Counties.

    Do we want to risk that on Trail Ridge in Charlton County, Georgia, where downhill is either the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge or the St. Mary's River? That river is a favorite local recreational resort. The Refuge, directly and indirectly, supports hundreds of jobs.

    We need a real Environmental Impact Statement before we let miners risk the Suwannee River headwaters in the Okefenokee Swamp, or its tributaries the New or Santa Fe Rivers.

    ...

  • 2019-07-22: W.S. Stuckey, Brunswick News, Okefenokee refuge impact area in several ways,

    As former Congressman of the 8th District of Georgia, one of the high points of my service was designating the Okefenokee Swamp as a U.S. Wilderness Area in 1974. Today, the United Nations recognizes the Okefenokee as a Wetland of International Importance.

    Twin Pines, a mining company based in Alabama, has applied for a U.S Army Corps of Engineers permit for heavy metal sand mining on a tract outside the Refuge. As part of the review process, the Corps can require a full Environmental Impact Study. I believe such a measure is necessary given the importance of the Okefenokee and the potential environmental impacts.

    The Okefenokee is a natural treasure. We revel in the biological diversity. Its still, black waters and the bellow of an alligator stir our imagination and transport us away from the realities of our busy lives. But there is more to the Okefenokee.

    The Okefenokee has 600,000 visitors a year and generates $88M in economic impact in Charlton, Clinch, and Ware counties.

    Putting this natural treasure and its economic impact at risk is unthinkable. I am advocating for a thorough review of the risks associated with mining, specifically its impact on ground and swamp waters.

    I urge everyone to join me in contacting the Corps of Engineers by submitting an email to holly.a.ross@usace.army.mil and requesting a full examination of the environmental risks associated with mining alongside the global treasure of which we are the stewards.

    W.S. Stuckey, Jr.

    Sea Island

  • 2019-08-13: John S. Quarterman, Charlton County Herald, 13 August 2019, Swamp more important than miners under Consent Order in Florida

    [Suwannee Riverkeeper op-ed 2019-08-13]
    Suwannee Riverkeeper op-ed 2019-08-13

  • 2019-08-15: Jackie Gingrich Cushman, TownHall.com, 15 August 2019, Being Good Stewards of Our Earth,

    When I was a child, my father — former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — was an environmental studies professor at West Georgia College in Carrollton. In 1971, our family spent the second Earth Day picking up trash from the side of the road. We often hiked, canoed and camped in the Okefenokee Swamp.

    She doesn't say anything about the proposed mine. Maybe she should. -jsq

  • 2019-08-17: Alex Kearns of St. Marys Earthkeepers was first with a followup op-ed, in the Brunswick News, 17 August 2019, Speak out against Twin Pines proposal

    We've seen no hydrological studies. They've performed no research regarding the potentially devastating impacts on the nearby hunt clubs and hunters that rely on the swamp for their income. No studies have been done about the impacts on tourism. In fact, Twin Pines offers (in their videotaped words) “no guarantees” that their operation will not negatively and permanently impact the Okefenokee Swamp and the rivers and people that depend upon it.

  • 2019-08-20: Mark Lyons Charlton County Herald, 20 August 2019, It's a shame to silence and gag majority,

    I would like to address my family, friends and the citizens of Charlton County. I am a fifth generation resident of Baker County, Florida. I have always considered Charlton County my second home. You all are our neighbors. I grew up fishing in the swamp and the St Marys River and camping from Emmaus Church, Simpson's Landing to Traders Hill. I have relatives all over Charlton County. My mother's mother was a Burnsed and her grandmother, a Reynolds. My father's mother was a Thrift and her grandmother, a Sands. My five times great-grandfather, George Reynolds, had a homestead on the North Prong of the St Marys River on the Florida side of the St Marys and constructed the first bridge across the North prong off of County Road 185. A bridge that we still use and call Reynolds Bridge to this day. I'm related to the Burnseds, Canadays, Mobleys, Reynolds, Thrifts, Sands and Stokes by blood and the Crewses, Chessers and Raulersons by marriage. I have always felt at home and welcomed in Charlton County. I recently had an experience in Folkston at your county commission meeting that made me feel like I was very unwelcome in Charlton County. I was made to feel like a complete stranger and as a member of the public and a citizen of these United States did not deserve or was not worthy of three minutes to address your County Commission Board during the public comment period of their meeting.

    I went to the commission meeting on August 15 because I had received a copy of the agenda for that meeting and agenda item #6 was of great importance to me. I had with me a prepared statement to read into record and an official Consent Order to read into the record of that meeting during public comment. When item #20 on the agenda (Public Comment) came up, your chairman James E. Everett announced that only Charlton County residents could come to the podium and speak for three minutes and if you were not a Charlton County resident you could see the clerk for an index card and write your comment on the card and hand it back to the clerk because you would not be allowed to address the board for public comment at the podium. Gagging the public because they are not a resident of a county is absolutely absurd! The agenda says public comment, not Charlton County residents comment only. Their official agenda says -Public Comments (Please limit to three minutes). It does not say anything about being a resident or non resident of Charlton County. It says nothing about being black, white, blue or green nor did it include any restrictions on who could or could not speak during public comment. Government is suppose to be FOR the people and BY the people. County Government is not a private business or some hierarchy ruled by the commission as their private kingdom although I feel some in your county government think that. Your county manager Hampton Raulerson told Laura Early the Satilla River Keeper and Executive Director that the commissioners are there to make decisions and not to listen to public comments. Really?? Whom does Mr. Raulerson think elected the commission and whom does Mr. Raulerson think he works for? Apparently themselves. Gordon Jackson of the (Brunswick News) who has covered Charlton County government for 17 years has stated he has never witnessed such restrictions on silencing the public in Charlton County Commission meetings. Georgia Public Broadcast newsletter on August 17, the day after this commission meeting stated that county officials said they decided on this new ‘gag rule' at this very meeting due to the ‘large' crowd and they didn't know how many were Charlton residents and by letting only residents speak it would move the meeting along a little faster and let them identify their residents. WHEN did they decide that? At THIS meeting?? Did I fall asleep? Are your commissioners telepathic and some how discussed this among themselves before our very eyes without a peep from their vocal cords? I don't know what you would call that, but I call that something that comes out of the back end of a bull! They absolutely DID NOT discuss making this change to the public comment period during this meeting. It was announced and sprung on the public when it came time for public comment and VERY apparent this decision was made prior to this meeting! The ‘large' crowd was there at 6:00 pm, the meeting started and there was no discussion of this sudden revelation that wow we have a ‘large' crowd here tonight and we are going to have to find out who Charlton residents are by limiting who can speak and not let out of county residents speak in order to save time. What is the big deal about rushing a meeting or keeping a meeting short? I have attended many commissioner meeting in multiple counties in Georgia and Florida and have never been told I could not address the board during public comment because I did not live there. I have also been in commission meetings where 20 to 50 citizens or more have spoken during public comment and the meetings didn't get over until the wee hours of the morning. I guess your commissioners have more important things to attend to other than county business and that's the need to keep their meetings short. Your commissioners are the highest paid employees of your county. If you take their annual salary and divided it by the number of hours they ACTUALLY meet and work they are making hundreds of dollars per hour. Pretty good pay for a ‘part time' job.

    It's a shame your chairman James E. Everett decided to gag and silence the majority of the public at that meeting. If I had been able to read and enter into record the documents I had with me it might have helped keep a little egg off of the commissioners faces when the dust settles over this premature proclamation of support for Twin Pines Mining that they unanimously voted for. Your commission has voted to support a company that is already breaking the law in Florida destroying wetlands without permits and dumping waste water without proper permitting. Sounds like a trustworthy and upstanding company to trust with the Okefenokee to me... The Okefenokee brings over 650,000 people a year to the swamp and those people spend money in your county. The swamp brings in millions in revenue each year. If it's damaged and destroyed no amount of mining jobs or mining tax revenue to Charlton County will ever make up for that. EVER!

Associated Press

This first AP story went everywhere:

And this second AP story got a lot of pickups:

  • 2019-07-19: Russ Bynum, Associated Press, 19 July 2019, Agency says mining near Okefenokee poses ‘substantial risks’

    SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — The federal agency that manages the vast wildlife refuge in the Okefenokee Swamp says a private company's plan to mine minerals near the swamp edge could pose “substantial risks” to the environment, and some damage may be irreversible.

    The written comments from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were provided to The Associated Press on Friday by the Army Corps of Engineers, which disclosed last week that it is considering a permit request by the mining company Twin Pines Minerals LLC of Birmingham, Alabama.

    The company wants to mine titanium dioxide less than 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) from the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. It's the largest federal refuge east of the Mississippi River, covering nearly 630 square miles (1,630 square kilometers) near the Georgia-Florida state line.

    ....

    “After the mining, it is questionable if the site will serve as habitat for either species ever again,” the Fish and Wildlife memo said.

A third AP story, derived from a GPB story, got as far as the west coast:

  • AP, San Francisco Chronicle, 16 August 2019, County officials vote to favor mining near Okefenokee refuge,

    FOLKS[T]ON, Ga. (AP) — County officials in Georgia are supporting a mining proposal near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge that a U.S. agency has said could cause environmental damage.

    Radio station WSVH [Georgia Public Broadcasting] reports the Charlton County Commission voted unanimously Thursday evening to approve a proclamation backing the mining plan by Twin Pines Minerals of Alabama. Commissioners cited the company's promise of 150 jobs as well as additional tax revenue....