ATLANTA – The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) launched a 60-day public comment period Thursday on an Alabama-based company’s plan to mine titanium near the Okefenokee Swamp that has drawn intense opposition.
The public comment period coincides with the EPD’s release of a draft mining land use plan submitted by Twin Pines Minerals, which is proposing a mine along Trail Ridge in Charlton County near the southeastern edge of the largest black water swamp in North America.
Jurisdiction over permitting for the project shifted back and forth last year between the state and federal governments.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suspended the EPD’s review of the proposed mine last June. But the federal agency later agreed in an out-of-court settlement with Twin Pines to step aside and let the EPD resume its consideration of the permits, drawing a lawsuit from environmental activists.
On Thursday, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) urged the project’s opponents to take advantage of the opportunity to comment on the plan.
“It is a critical time for the public to weigh in by sending comments opposing the Twin Pines mine that will destroy hundreds of acres of wetlands on the doorstep of the Okefenokee,” said Megan Huynh, a senior attorney in the SELC’s Georgia office.
“Beyond the state permitting process, Twin Pines cannot legally fill these wetlands — which are once again protected by the federal Clean Water Act — without a federal permit.”
“When leading independent scientists say the mine will dry up part of the swamp and pollute it with salt … one would expect [Twin Pines’] dangerous project to be rejected out of hand by Georgia’s environmental watchdog,” added Josh Mark, an environmental lawyer who led a successful fight in 1990s against a proposed DuPont mining project at the Okefenokee.
“Instead, EPD appears to have ignored this evidence and went so far as to use the wrong data set for its hydrologic analysis in order to seemingly endorse the project. This is a tragic mistake and will put Georgia’s greatest natural treasure at grave risk.”
Twin Pines officials say the mine does not threaten the environment, and the land will be restored to its original content and native vegetation after mining activity is completed. Steve Ingle, the company’s president, welcomed the public comment period.
“This is a great opportunity for people to learn the truth about what our operations will and will not do, and the absurdity of allegations that our shallow mining-to-land-reclamation process will ‘drain the swamp’ or harm it in any way,” Ingle said.
“EPD’s process has been thorough and rigorous, and our responses to their questions have been based on sound science and engineering. We will be transparent in our operations and adhere to the direction of EPD which will closely monitor our activities.”
The public comment period will include two virtual public hearings hosted by the EPD on Feb. 21 and Feb. 23 at 6 p.m.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.