Heavy mining facility proposed near Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

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By: Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News
August 21, 2019

LOWNDES COUNTY. Ga. (WCTV) -- The United State Army Corps of Engineers is weighing a proposal for a new mining project in South Georgia.

Twin Pines Minerals LLC. is looking to develop a heavy mineral mine location near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Some environmentalists say the project could have a major impact on communities across North Florida and South Georgia.

Twin Pines Minerals, from Alabama, is looking to build the mining location just a few miles southeast of the Okefenokee Swamp in Charlton County.

Last week the Charlton County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution of support for the project. County officials said the reason is because Charlton County does not have many industry opportunities of its own, and many residents leave to surrounding counties for work. officials said the 150 jobs created from the project could be beneficial to the county.

The Okefenokee Swamp is the headwater for the Suwannee River, which is why community members across the region are fighting the proposal, saying it could have consequences in both states.

In the proposal, the 'heavy mineral sand mining facility' would require a loss of about 65 acres of wetland, and a temporary impact of about 522 acres of wetlands. It would sit on about 12,00 acres on six tracts of land.

Plans say it will be worked on in phases, each phase on about 25 to 40 acres per month.

Concerns about the project span across the state of Georgia. Those opposed said the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Okefenokee Swamp and connecting Suwannee River are major economic and tourism driver for the both the state of Georgia and Florida, and this project could put that at risk.

"Because of the coal plants in Georgia, there's mercury deposition on the surface of the ground for years. If they go stir all that up, that could run in to the swamp," said Suwannee Riverkeeper John Quarterman. "Why should we risk the Okefenokee, its boating, its fishing, its birding."

While the Charlton County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution of support, county officials said they do not have jurisdiction over the zoning or permitting. All permits for the project will ultimately be up to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

There is a public comment period open for the project through September 12.

We reached out to Twin Pines Minerals LLC, but have yet to hear back.

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