Don’t Risk One of Georgia’s Seven Natural Wonders:
Say NO to the 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 the Georgia Environmental Protection Division 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.

Update as of Dec. 4, 2020:

Changes to the Clean Water Act regulations enacted in early 2020 enabled Twin Pines Minerals LLC to bypass the federal wetlands permitting process and any federal environmental oversight of the mining proposal. Now, the fate of the mine hinges on decisions made by Georgia leaders and the state’s Environmental Protection Division as they consider five environmental permits the company must secure to begin operations. Get more details on the Okefenokee Protection Alliance’s Resources page.

Read Georgia River Network’s Comments to the Corps

The Okefenokee Swamp

Photo by Tom Wilson

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

Photo by Tom Wilson

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 and gopher 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.”

Okefenokee Trail Ridge Mining Site & Regional Water Trails

Georgia River Network – Okefenokee Swamp PowerPoint Presentation

GRN is a Member of the Okefenokee Protection Alliance

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. Send your photographs, videos and stories to info@garivers.org. Together, we can SAVE THE SWAMP.

 

Letters to the Editor

Read the Letter to the Editor by Rena Peck Stricker in the Savannah Morning News.

Op Eds

https://www.savannahnow.com/opinion/20200326/letters-to-editor-friday

https://www.savannahnow.com/opinion/20190829/letters-to-editor-friday-mining-next-to-okefenokee-remains-bad-idea

Articles

July 11, 2021. Saporta Report. “National Defense Does Not Need Titanium from Okefenokee Swamp, Industry Says”

June 22, 2021. Georgia Recorder. “Environmentalists Bank on State Regulators to Stop Okefenokee Mine”

June 11, 2021. The Island Packet. “Undoing Trump Rule Won’t Likely Affect Okefenokee Mine Plan

June 9, 2021. Yahoo News. “Biden to Increase Federal Water Protections After Trump’s ‘Destructive Impacts’ to US Waterways”

June 9, 2021. Saporta Report. “Georgia Pays Close Attention to Trail Ridge in Review of Okefenokee Mine Application”

June 9, 2021. Politico. “Biden EPA to Reverse Trump’s Sweeping Clean Water Act Rollback”

June 9, 2021. Orlando Sentinel. “Undoing Trump Rule Won’t Likely Affect Okefenokee Mine Plan Near Georgia-Florida Line”

June 8, 2021. The Tifton Gazette. “Fate of Planned Mine Near Okefenokee Left to Georgia Agency”

June 8, 2021. The Decatur Daily. “Drain the Swamp? Mine Opponents Worry Trump Era Rules Don’t Protect Okefenokee”

May 28, 2021. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Environmental Groups Ramping Up Opposition to Okefenokee Mining Project

May 24, 2021. Bloomberg Law. “Okefenokee Swamp a Battlefield in Epic Trump Water Rules Fight

May 15, 2021. Savannah Morning News. “Sen. Ossoff Visits Mining-Imperiled Okefenokee Swamp

May 7, 2021. The Brunswick News. “Senators Want Federal Help With Mine Permit”

May 5, 2021. The Brunswick News. “State EPD Says It’s Capable of Handling Mining Permit”

April 29, 2021. Atlanta Intown. “Above the Waterline: Georgia Officials to Determine Fate of Okefenokee”

April 27, 2021. The Brunswick News. “Critics Concerned EPD Lacks Expertise to Rule on Mining Permit.”

April 24, 2021. Fox28 Savannah. “Georgia Governor Won’t Wade into Debate on Okefenokee Mining.”

April 22, 2021. WABE. “State Has Questions About Mining Plan Near Okefenokee.”

April 19, 2021. The Saporta Report. “Earth Day, BP Gulf Oil Spill Observed as New Challenge Emerges at Apalachicola Bay”

April 18, 2021. The Saporta Report. “Earth Day 2021: Hope Springs Eternal, Even with Threat to Okefenokee Swamp”

April 14, 2021. The Saporta Report. “National Spotlight Shines on South River as Example of Environmental Injustice”

April 8, 2021. The Brunswick News. “Opposition Growing to Mining Proposal”

March 29, 2021. The Saporta Report. “Extracting Natural Resources from Natural Wonders: Okefenokee Swamp, Pamlico River”

March 4, 2021. The Brunswick News. “EPD Accepting Comments About Mining Near Swamp”

March 4, 2021. The Hatch. “Could Mining Impact the Okefenokee?”

March 1, 2021. The Georgia Sun. “Will the Biden Administration Halt Mining Near Okefenokee”

March 1, 2021. The Current. Okefenokee lovers still hope state, Biden administration will halt mine”

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

https://saportareport.com/army-corps-advised-smaller-footprint-for-proposed-mine-near-okefenokee-swamp/

https://www.npr.org/2019/09/02/756823518/in-georgia-an-old-mining-fight-resurfaces

https://thebrunswicknews.com/news/local_news/getting-the-aerial-perspective-on-a-titanium-mining-project/article_e77c677a-d857-59c0-9f2b-3a372768e23d.html

https://www.savannahnow.com/news/20190909/for-okefenokee-supporters-proposed-mine-too-close-to-refuge

https://www.wtoc.com/2019/09/20/draft-add-pdf-epa-weighs-mining-proposal-okefenokee-swamp/

https://georgiarecorder.com/2019/08/14/folkston-okefenokee-mine-hearing-draws-protest-skeptics/

https://georgiarecorder.com/2019/08/20/meetings-last-week-surface-debate-could-mining-drain-okefenokee/

https://thebrunswicknews.com/news/local_news/twin-pines-explains-plans-to-mine-near-okefenokee/article_01d6c55a-1099-51bf-b3d5-0694c056600c.html

https://www.wabe.org/a-familiar-story-different-details-the-latest-proposal-to-mine-the-okefenokee/