Mining project could cause ‘unacceptable’ impact to Okefenokee says EPA

Several governmental agencies have expressed concerns about how a proposed titanium mine may impact the swamp and wildlife of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge as well as the lack of research provided about the project.

The US Army Corp of Engineers, the agency charged with reviewing the mining proposal, released comments to the public days after government agencies, non-governmental organizations and members of the public filed more than 20,500 comments. The agency is periodically posting items related to the application of Twin Pines Minerals LLC to mine in the area.

In July, Twin Pines filed a permit request for the first phase of a 30-year mining plan which would include 12,000 acres mined in 1,000 acre parcels.

Phase one would cover about 2,400 acres and would come within 1.7 miles of the border of the Okefenokee refuge. It includes mining Trail Ridge, the unique geological formation that surrounds Okefenokee Swamp.

>> Related: Mining proposal near Okefenokee draws more than 20K comments from public

A three-page response outlined the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s concerns about the project. The agency said detailed plans for restoring the wetlands and stream have not been provided by Twin Pines and are necessary to evaluate the degree to which the soil and water could be restored to appropriate conditions after mining.

Twin Pines also has not adequately demonstrated that the project would not harm fish, wildlife and the surrounding environment  or result in changes to the groundwater that could impact the conditions of the swamp, the agency said. The cumulative impacts would also need to be considered since the plan is to mine a full 12,000 acres over several decades.

“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,” said the statement. “The EPA finds that this project as proposed, may result in substantial and unacceptable impacts to aquatic resources of national  importance.”

>> Read More: Mining proposal raises concerns about future of Okefenokee Swamp

Georgia‘s Environmental Protection Division also expressed concerns about the lack of environmental documentation that has yet to be prepared, completed and distributed from Twin Pines. The agency particularly noted the absence of a report that is supposed to document the groundwater conditions before, during and after mining.

“We feel 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...” read the statement.

Twin Pines Minerals has indicated they are working on additional reports including a three-dimensional groundwater flow model which would simulate what happens to water flow both during and after mining.

Comments from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service noted that the mining proposal would not occur near essential fish habitat, a position that does not support or oppose authorization of the project. The agency also indicated that it would be unable to offer any further analysis because of its current staffing levels.