News | September 19, 2019

Laundry list of reasons why mining next to the Okefenokee is a bad idea

SELC and partners urge Corps to deny weak permit

The Okefenokee Swamp, a pristine and iconic wetland in southern Georgia, is home to the state’s treasured Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The doorstep of this National Natural Landmark and key wetland habitat is no place for a 12,000-acre titanium mine.

Last week, SELC submitted comments on behalf of a number of environmental groups opposing a recent application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would allow Twin Pines Minerals to mine for titanium near the swamp and wildlife refuge.

Twin Pines has failed to provide critical information and, from the information it has provided, we can predict a train wreck of adverse effects.

Bill Sapp, Senior Attorney

The reality of titanium mining isn’t pretty. In its applications, Twin Pines is asking for permission to scrape off the layer of topsoil, dig up to 70-feet deep into the wetland and sandy soils, separate out the heavy minerals from the sandy soil, then attempt to put all of the layers of 522 acres of wetlands back together again.

In comments submitted to the Army Corps, SELC and its partners made clear that doing so would likely destroy the integrity of the swamp and surrounding ecosystems, in violation of Clean Water Act guidelines. More than 20,000 local, regional, and national organizations and individuals also wrote comments urging the Corps to deny Twin Pines’ permit.

“Twin Pines has failed to provide critical information and, from the information it has provided, we can predict a train wreck of adverse effects,” says Senior Attorney Bill Sapp.

Some of the concerns are as follows:

  • The lack of information in the application prevents meaningful comment by the public.
  • Twin Pines has consistently downplayed the ultimate size of its proposed mine and how long it would take to restore the site.
  • Twin Pines claims that no endangered species would be harmed, though biologists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have said the mining would likely destroy the habitats of listed animals, such as gopher tortoises, frosted flatwood salamanders, striped newts, and gopher frogs.
  • Twin Pines made unsubstantiated claims that the proposed mine would cause no harm to the swamp, while also noting they have not completed several key studies of how water flows through the site.
  • Twin Pines did not meet the legal requirement to adequately consider alternatives with less environmental impact.

“These misrepresentations do not inspire confidence in Twin Pines’ ability to preserve irreplaceable public resources like the Okefenokee Swamp,” says the letter SELC submitted.

Twin Pines has not and cannot show that the proposed mine will not have unacceptable adverse impacts. Therefore, it is our stance that the Corps should deny the permit for the project.

Says Senior Attorney Megan Huynh, “If the Corps is not willing to deny the permit, it should, at the very minimum, require Twin Pines to do an Environmental Impact Statement to ensure that the very real risks to one of the world’s most unique ecosystems are not overlooked.”

For a full list of reasons why Twin Pines’ mining application should not be approved, click here to read SELC’s submitted comments.