Opposition growing to proposed Okefenokee titanium mine

Mining company wants to open site near swamp’s southern end

Opposition is mounting against the proposed titanium mine by Twin Pines Minerals near the south end of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

State Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak, has joined more than 25 regional, state and national organizations to express concerns about the proposed mining project.

In a letter written to Col. Daniel Hibner, with the Army Corps of Engineers office in Savannah, Ligon said the 12,000-acre heavy mineral sands mine could impact many of his constituents.

“The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge was designated in 1937 and enjoys over 600,000 visitors annually,” Ligon said in his letter. “I join more than 20,000 citizens, businesses and organizations, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Georgia Environmental Protection Division to express my concern for the long-term impacts that may result from the proposed mine.”

Ligon advised the Corps to reject the application “unless we can reasonably be assured that the Okenenokee would not be adversely affected.”

The EPA determined the project, as proposed, “may result in substantial and unacceptable impacts to aquatic resources of national importance,” Ligon said. Additionally, the EPA study determined “notable elements of the environmental documentation for this substantive project have not yet been prepared, completed and distributed.”

Ligon said science must guide decisions that affect the swamp and national wildlife refuge.

“After critical review, the studies must demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that no harm will come to the swamp as a result of Twin Pines’ mining operations,” Ligon wrote.

He suggested stakeholders meet to consider ways to protect the long-term integrity of the swamp. DuPont abandoned plans to mine titanium near the refuge about two decades ago because of similar concerns about the environmental impacts to the swamp.

“I look forward to working with my fellow Georgians, federal officials, and state/federal management agencies to find a way to conserve the integrity of the Okefenokee Swamp and to find land use investments that are compatible with the nature-based economy of Southeast Georgia.”

Other local opposition includes the Camden County Joint Development Authority, the cities of Fernandina Beach, Kingsland, St. Marys and Woodbine.

Alex Kearns, chair of St. Marys EarthKeepers said her organization and other environmental groups are grateful for the growing opposition to what she describes as an “ill-conceived project.”

“Hopefully, their letters, along with the comments from Senator Ligon, statements from government agencies, and the emails and calls from thousands of citizens will help to persuade the USACE to do the right thing and deny Twin Pines’ permit,” Kearns said.