Our Santa Fe River retains membership in various coalitions of non-profit organizations to try to bolster strength in unity to help protect natural systems that bear on the vitality and sustainability of our spring shed and aquifer. As we are, in fact, “One Water”, we are concerned with impacts from the northern reaches of the Floridan from Georgia and Alabama to the southern boundaries into the Gulf of Mexico.
One such coalition is the Okefenokee Protection Alliance which has been tracking progress on a permit request by Twin Pines Minerals, LLC to site a titanium mine on the Okefenokee Swamp at the headwaters of the Suwannee River. The mining is proposed for Trail Ridge, the prehistoric sand dune that helped create the Okefenokee and holds back its waters. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has warned that the mine could affect the hydrology of swamp causing irreversible damage and that the models developed by Twin Pines are not reliable. In addition, the mining would destroy over 370 acres of wetlands, pump over a million gallons a day of fresh groundwater, discharge pollutants into the air and waste into the St. Marys River basin, and cast noise and light over the refuge that will damage the visitor experience and the local economy.
What’s worse, the leadership of Twin Pines has a bad track record throughout the Southeast. The company and their associates have caused major environmental problems in the communities where they are operating and have provided regulators with misleading information. We must stop this mining proposal, and we need your help to do it!
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division is currently accepting (and counting) comments on the project. All comments should be addressed to Director Richard Dunn and sent to [email protected]
Mr. Richard Dunn
Director, Georgia Environmental Protection Division
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, SE
Suite 1456, East Tower
Atlanta, GA 31334
Dear Director Dunn,
I respectfully request that the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA EPD) deny Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, permission to operate a heavy mineral sand mine next to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The company has not proven that the Okefenokee Swamp, St. Marys River, and surrounding communities will not be harmed by the proposed mine.
Twin Pines’ proposal to mine for minerals deep into Trail Ridge adjacent to the national wildlife refuge will likely have lasting and irreversible impacts. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has warned that the mine could affect the hydrology of swamp causing irreversible damage and that the models developed by Twin Pines are not reliable. The mining operations will devastate the swamp’s ecological integrity and increase the likelihood of catastrophic fire the ancient peat beds, which would pump enormous amounts of CO2 into the air. The first phase of this harmful mine will eliminate roughly 370 acres of valuable wetlands, withdraw millions of gallons of groundwater, release air and light pollutants into the refuge, which is an International Dark Sky Park, and discharge wastewater into the St. Marys River basin. The company offers NO defensible assurances that their mining operations will protect the Okefenokee Swamp from permanent damage, protect endangered species, or safeguard the long-term interest of the people who depend on that environment for recreation and economic opportunities.
In addition, Twin Pines and its executives have a bad track record through the southeast. In its original surface mining application, Twin Pines misrepresented the existence of a lease on adjacent lands. Twin Pines has also committed environmental violations at its mine in Starke, Florida. And its affiliate, Georgia Renewable Power, has violated air and water permits and caused harm to the citizens of Madison and Franklin Counties in Northeast Georgia.
At the very least, the GA EPD must:
Work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to comprehensively investigate the cumulative impacts mining along Trail Ridge will have on the Okefenokee Swamp and the refuge,
Require alternative analysis of actions that best support the interest of the public, and
Host public hearings to allow citizens and independent experts the opportunity to share concerns, ask questions, and hear directly from GA EPD and Twin Pines representatives.
The Okefenokee Swamp is a rare and treasured public resource. The health of that place should not be put at risk by Twin Pines’ dangerous proposal. Thank you for your time and consideration of these comments.