Don’t Risk One of Georgia’s Seven Natural Wonders:
Say NO To Okefenokee Swamp Titanium Mine
The Okefenokee Swamp, one of Georgia’s seven natural wonders; the largest blackwater swamp in North America; and a wetland of international importance, is threatened by a proposed titanium mine.
Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, an Alabama mining company with a poor track record of environmental stewardship, has asked federal and state authorities permission to operate a 898-acre heavy mineral sand mine next to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. This is the first phase of a mining operation on a 12,000-acre site. The company proposes digging 50-foot deep trenches in Trail Ridge, the very rise of land that helps regulate water levels in the swamp. These excavations would extend below the water table of the swamp and could alter water levels in the swamp.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has written that “should impacts occur, they may not be able to be reversed, repaired or mitigated for.”
At risk is one of the last self-contained, naturally functioning wetlands left on Earth. Among the most visited National Wildlife Refuges in the country, the Okefenokee hosts some 600,000 visitors annually who help create more than 750 local jobs and a total annual economic output of $64.7 million in the four counties surrounding the swamp.
Ask Governor Brian Kemp to save the swamp and stop this mine.
You may also mail Gov. Kemp a letter to 206 Washington Street, Suite 203, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334
Okefenokee / St Marys River Named Most Endangered River of 2020 by American Rivers
American Rivers named the Okefenokee Swamp and St. Marys River as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2020. Rena Ann Peck, Executive Director of Georgia River Network, explains “The Okefenokee Swamp is like the heart of the regional Floridan aquifer system in southeast Georgia and northeast Florida. The life-force of water from the Okefenokee Swamp not only flows into the St. Marys River to the Atlantic Ocean, but also into the Suwannee River to the Gulf of Mexico. Mining on Trail Ridge can draw down the water level of the Okefenokee Swamp and dewater headwater wetlands and tributaries and the rivers they feed, destroying natural habitat for federally listed species and providing dry peat fueling uncontrollable fires.” Read the press release.
Twin Pines Minerals Permit Application
Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, an Alabama mining company, is seeking permission to operate a heavy mineral sand mine to extract titanium in Charlton County on Trail Ridge adjacent to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Trail Ridge is an ancient geologic formation impounding the swamp on its eastern boundary. Twin Pines’ 12,000-acre mining area is dangerously close to the Refuge. Excavation and groundwater pumping could permanently alter the ancient geologic features that create the swamp and provide important wildlife habitat. Alterations to groundwater flow or impacts to the swamp could impact the Suwannee and St. Mary’s rivers. In addition, the mining could impact imperiled species, including gopher tortoises, a candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. Gopher tortoises are considered a “keystone” species on which other animals depend. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has written that “Should impacts occur, they may not be able to be reversed, repaired, or mitigated for.” They originally submitted for a permit for a 2400 acre mining destroying over 500 acres of wetlands and 4,658 linear feet of stream. Twin Pines withdrew this original application and now has resubmitted for mining 898 acres only 2.7 miles from the Refuge. We continue to oppose mining on Trail Ridge in order to protect the Okefenokee Swamp and the St. Marys and Suwannee rivers that originate from it.
Twin Pines has applied for a permit to alter wetlands from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As part of the agency process, the Corps accepted public comments until May 28, 2020 (extended from original deadline of April 13, 2020). U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, Attention: Ms. Holly Ross, 1104 North Westover Boulevard, Suite 9, Albany, Georgia, 31707, or by email to CESAS-SpecialProjects@usace.army.mil.
* Refer to the applicant’s name (Twin Pines Minerals) and application number (SAS-2018-00554).
The Okefenokee Swamp
Covering 440,000 acres or 630 square miles, the Okefenokee is the largest blackwater swamp in North America and one of the world’s largest intact freshwater ecosystems. The swamp was designated a National Wildlife Refuge in 1937 and is the largest NWR east of the Mississippi. Since 1937 the protection has ensured the swamp remains largely unspoiled. “One of the coolest things about the Okefenokee is that it’s basically an intact ecosystem,” said Refuge Manager Michael Lusk, noting that the Everglades, while larger, had been ditched and drained. And while there once was logging in some parts of the Okefenokee, the swamp has been protected for more than 80 years. “What we have now is a large intact, functioning ecosystem and that is so rare, especially in the eastern U.S.”
Water Trails and Recreation
Today, 600,000 people visit each year to discover its amazing landscapes—including peat beds, island prairies, and cypress forests—and wildlife like American alligators, sandhill cranes, indigo snakes andgopher tortoises. National Geographic named the Swamp one of the 100 most beautiful places on the planet. In 2015, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia was also identified as one of the top 10 canoe trips in the world by Green Global Travel.
The refuge is part of the National Water Trail System, one of only 21 designated trails in the U.S., in part because it requires an act of Congress. The Okefenokee and the Suwannee River both have water trails that are part of Georgia River Network’s Water Trail System. The St. Mary’s trail is under development. To learn more about Georgia Water Trails, click here.
The swamp was formed 6500 years ago. The mining operation will last 8 years. As former Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbit once said “titanium is a common mineral while the Okefenokee is a very uncommon swamp.”
GRN is a Member of the Okefenokee Protection Alliance
The Okefenokee Protection Alliance is a coalition of more than 30 conservation organizations representing millions of members that have joined forces to save the swamp from the proposed Twin Pines Minerals, LLC titanium mine and other threats that jeopardize the integrity of the Okefenokee Swamp. Learn more at https://protectokefenokee.org/
Save the Swamp Campaign – We want your swamp stories!
The Okefenokee Swamp has been the scene of countless adventures and awe-inspiring encounters with nature and as this national treasure faces the threat of a mining operation near its tea-colored waters, Georgia River Network wants your stories, photographs and videos that illustrate the importance of protecting the largest blackwater swamp in the U.S. Share your photographs, videos and stories in the comment section or send them directly to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Together, we can SAVE THE SWAMP.
Letters to the Editor
April 22, 2020, Charlton County Herald. “Twin Pines Minerals resubmits application for mining near Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge” by Marla Ogletree. or click here for pdf
April 21, 2020. Jacksonville Times. “Mark Woods: Even during pandemic, Earth Day matters” by Mark Woods.”
April 21, 2020. Albany Herald, “Okefenokee Swamp, St. Marys River on Most Endangered list”.
April 18, 2020. The Brunswick News “Public comment period for proposed mining extended” by Gordon Rogers
April 17, 2020, WPXI Pittsburg, “Popular local river named one of the country’s most endangered”
April 16 Camden County News “St. Marys River, swamp join list of ‘Most Endangered’ by Jill Helton
April 15, 2020, News 4 Jax, “Mining plan lands Okefenokee, St. Marys on endangered US rivers list”
April 15, 2020. Brunswick News “St. Marys River named among nation’s most endangered” by Gordon Jackson.
April 14, 2020. Savannah Business Journal – “Okefenokee Swamp and St. Marys River named Among America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2020”
April 14, 2020. “2 largest US rivers top new listing of endangered waterways” by Jim Salter, Associated Press
April 14, 2020. NewsTimes. “2 largest US rivers top new listing of endangered waterways” by Jim Salter
April 14, 2020. Scientific American – “Portions of Mississippi and Missouri Rivers Are Most Endangered in U.S.” by Daniel Cusick
April 14, 2020. Georgia Recorder, “Feds Open Mining Plan to Another Round of Public Comment” by Stanley Dunlap
April 14, 2020. US News & World Report. “Mining Plan Lands Okefenokee on `Endangered’ US Rivers List”
April 14, 2020. New York Times, “2 Largest US Rivers Top New Listing of Endangered Waterways“
April 14, 2020. NewsBreak, “Okefenokee named among ’most endangered’ rivers”
April 14, 2020. USA Today, “Upper Mississippi River is the nation’s ‘most endangered river’ of 2020“
April 14, 2020, Savannah Morning News. “Okefenokee named among ‘most endangered’ rivers”. by Mary Landers
Paddle the Okefenokee and St Marys River in November