An Ecosystem in Jeopardy
Among the concerns of mining so close to the largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi River is that hydrologic and water quality changes will damage the Okefenokee, as well as the St. Marys River that flows from its beautiful, placid waters. The Okefenokee is entirely rain-fed and relies on the structural function of Trail Ridge to maintain water levels. Unfortunately, scientists worry that mining in this area of Trail Ridge will impact water quality and water levels in the swamp, increase fire in the swamp and surrounding farms and forests, destroy habitat, and impact tourism to the National Refuge. Twin Pines has failed to provide adequate models and information for how waste water will be managed and the impact withdrawals will have on the Floridan aquifer and the St. Marys River.
We’re working to save the wild heart of Georgia.
Twin Pines’ mining proposal has changes many times since the operation was first presented in 2018. Today, the company is seeking permits for the first phase of what will eventually be an 8,000-acre mine to extract titanium and other heavy minerals from the sandy soil of Trail Ridge. Currently the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) is reviewing Twin Pines proposal considering whether to grant the company the permits necessary to operate a heavy mineral sand mine in the state. Federal protections for wetlands were rolled back in June 2020, so all eyes are on the Georgia EPD as they deliberate the impacts this proposed mine could have on the beloved Okefenokee Swamp and surrounding areas.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requested that the regulating agencies reconsider the federal jurisdiction, and Georgia’s Senators have also both suggested that federal permits are needed to protect the integrity of the National Wildlife Refuge and the surrounding areas.
Additionally local concerns are growing. In addition to the more than 60,000 comments submitted to agencies responsible for permitting Twin Pines mine, the cities of Valdosta, St. Marys, Kingsland, Homeland, and Waycross/Ware County passed resolutions asking for protection for the Okefenokee Swamp and the citizens they represent. Faith leaders have also expressed concern for the impact Twin Pines’ mine and encouraged Charlton County Commissioners to not allow the swamp to be desecrated by the project.
You can help.
The GA EPD has announced they will take public comments now, and a formal comment period will commence at a later date. OHM stands firm on our recommendation that the permit for the first phase of the mining activities be denied.
And with federal protections uncertain, the time is right for the State of Georgia to step up and protect the Wild Heart of Georgia. We anticipate that state legislators will introduce legislation during the 2023 Georgia General Assembly to prevent harmful mining next to the Okefenokee. For now, we are asking all Georgians to contact Governor Brian Kemp asking that he encourage state regulators to deny permits to mine near the swamp.
The largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi
The Okefenokee Swamp covers 440,000 acres. That’s more than three times the total land mass of all Georgia’s barrier islands! It includes 370,000 acres of freshwater wetlands—an area larger than all of Georgia’s tidal salt marshes—and 353,981 acres of wilderness area, more than half the size of the Smoky Mountain National Park.
An Evolving Ecosystem
One million years ago, when sea levels were much higher than today, Trail Ridge was a barrier island. This geological feature allowed for freshwater to accumulate in what is now the Okefenokee Swamp. The swamp as we know it today began forming five to seven thousand years ago when the peat moss first established in the area.
An Ecological—and Economic—Driver for our Region
The Okefenokee Swamp supports more than 750 local jobs in Charlton County and Southeast Georgia. Approximately 600,000 annual visitors come from all 50 states and ~35 countries.
A Wonder of the World
In addition to its status as a National Wildlife Refuge and a Wetland of International Importance, the Okefenokee is on the “tentative list” of United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites.
Okefenokee in the News
WABE | 2/9/22
The Current | 2/4/22
Bloomberg Law | 1/24/22
Savannah Morning News | 1/7/22
AJC | 11/20/21
The Current | 10/22/21
Brunswick News | 10/12/21
Georgia Recorder | 9/27/21
The Current | 9/1/21
Defenders of Wildlife | 8/27/21
Saporta Report | 7/11/21
U.S. News | 6/10/21
AP | 6/7/21
AJC | 7/14/20
Savannah Morning News | 5/14/20
The Brunswick News | 1/30/20
VP, Coastal Conservation
“The Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is an irreplaceable piece of Georgia’s history and a world-renowned ecosystem. Join us in speaking out to protect it.”
Contact Alice for more information about our efforts to protect the Okefenokee.