In a complaint filed last week in U.S. District Court, lawyers for Twin Pines argue that their planned mine, located within three miles of the swamp, will have no effect on water levels. The lawsuit called the Corps’ decision “unlawful and unwarranted.”
At the center of the case is whether the Muscogee (Creek) Nation — one of the Native American tribes for whom the Okefenokee Swamp has huge cultural and historical significance — was properly consulted when the decision to remove federal oversight was made.
In its June 3 memo, the Corps’ said it was rescinding its ruling because the government failed to formally solicit feedback from the tribe.
But Twin Pines’ lawyers say that the tribes’ views are irrelevant to the Corps’ determination on whether it has jurisdiction over the mine. They also claim the Corps made its decision without knowing whether the tribe had any new or pertinent information that could have affected their initial ruling.
Twin Pines declined to comment on the case. Muscogee (Creek) Nation offices were closed Monday for a tribal holiday and attempts to contact them were unsuccessful.
The Army Corps of Engineers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Megan Huynh, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center — one of several organizations involved in fighting the proposed mine — said the Corps’ made the right decision in June and said it was up to Twin Pines to prove its mining plan is safe.
“Despite Twin Pines’ repeated attempts over the years to move the goal posts and avoid fundamental environmental requirements intended to protect iconic places like the Okefenokee, the fact remains that the company has not and cannot show that its proposed mine would not cause irreparable harm,” she said.