Twin Pines Minerals of Birmingham, Alabama has applied for state and federal permits to strip mine for titanium and zirconium on thousands of acres next to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and Wilderness in southern Georgia. The 354,000-acre Okefenokee Wilderness makes up almost 90 percent of the Refuge and is one of the largest Wilderness areas in the East.
Twin Pines plans to first excavate and process minerals on 2,400 acres next to the refuge to an average depth of 50 feet. Later work, continuing for as many as 30 years, would alter almost 12,000 acres. Similar mineral deposits run the entire length of Trail Ridge on the eastern edge of the Okefenokee Swamp, so strip mining could potentially occur along the Refuge’s entire eastern boundary.
Water is critical to the well-being of Okefenokee, which is recognized worldwide as a Wetland of International Importance. The proposed mine could impact thousands of acres of wetlands, which would forever change the unique ecosystem of the Swamp. Wilderness values like solitude, silence, and remoteness could be impacted by the close proximity of industrial mining activity and associated development.
The Okefenokee Swamp is one of the world’s largest still intact blackwater swamp ecosystems, and provides important habitat for native wildlife such as black bears, American alligators, and red-cockaded woodpeckers. Wilderness Watch is urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect the Okefenokee and the rare Wilderness experience it provides by rejecting the Twin Pines Minerals strip mine proposal.
Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service