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Army Corps advised smaller footprint for proposed mine near Okefenokee Swamp

David Pendered
The Okefenokee Swamp is the largest black water swamp in North America. A proposed mine to the south of the swamp would produce mineral sands that have military and industrial uses. Credit:By pseabolt, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49600367

By David Pendered

The new application to mine sand from near the Okefenokee Swamp was crafted in consultation with the federal entity that will review the application and was shared in advance with the local chamber of commerce, records show.

The Okefenokee Swamp is the largest black water swamp in North America. A proposed mine to the south of the swamp would produce mineral sands that have military and industrial uses. File/Credit:By pseabolt, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49600367

The new application is the second to be submitted by Twin Pines Minerals, LLC. The company seeks permission to extract sand that contains valuable products from land along Trail Ridge, a notable ridge of sand that’s been mined in Florida for titanium.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, received the second application on March 6. This application seeks permission to dig on a significantly smaller footprint of land, and characterizes the extraction process as a demonstration model.

The corps issued a public notice March 13 that addresses its efforts with Twin Pines to develop a mining operation that potentially could exist within the confines of environmental concerns:

  • “[A]s a result of discussions between the Corps and applicant, the scope of the proposed project has been reduced and the project purpose has been modified to utilize this project specifically as a demonstration project to validate groundwater models for the purpose of better understanding the effects of mining activities along Trail Ridge.”

The notion of the mine as a “demonstration project” has been rebuked by the executive director of the Georgia River Network, Rena Ann Peck, who wrote:

  • “Twin Pines claims this to be a kinder gentler type of mine, calling it a ‘demonstration project’ to test their incomplete hydrogeologic model.  Streams and wetlands will be destroyed in this initial “demonstration” project and put water level of the Swamp at risk. Don’t be fooled….”

The Charlton County Development Authority stated in a letter published Dec. 23, 2019 that it was aware of the company’s plans to seek an extraction permit for a smaller site than initially proposed. The letter posted on the company’s webpage observes:

  • “We, the members of the Charlton County Development Authority, wish to reiterate our support for the mining project proposed by Twin Pines Minerals. We have considered the economic and environmental aspects of the plan very carefully and believe it is going to be a project of which we can all be proud and from which we will all benefit.
  • “The information that has spread is misleading, and there are many examples, such as the claim that Twin Pines plans to mine 12,000 acres. The current permit request is for 2,400 acres, but we understand that the mining footprint has recently been reduced from 1,200 acres to about 900. There have been various claims that mining will be conducted “on the edge” of the swamp and others that say it will be only a half-mile away. The fact is the nearest point in the mining area to the swamp is 2.7 miles away.”

For its part, Twin Pines contends that groundwater models created by a scientist it hired demonstrate the extraction operation would have “negligible impact” on Okefenokee Swamp and Trail Ridge, according to a report on the company’s website:

  • “Two numerical models were developed using U.S. Geological Survey standards to simulate three-dimensional, steady-state groundwater flow in the Surficial Aquifer at the study area. …
  • “The comparison shows that the proposed mining activities will have negligible impact on the hydrologic system of Trail Ridge and the Okefenokee Swamp.”

 

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David Pendered
David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.

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