Facing significant public opposition and concerns from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Twin Pines Minerals of Alabama announced on February 10, 2020 that it was withdrawing its proposal to strip mine for titanium and zirconium on thousands of acres on the eastern edge of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge 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.
Last September, Wilderness Watch members and supporters sent over 14,000 emails to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers urging them to reject the Twin Pines Minerals strip mine proposal. Unfortunately, Twin Pines has said it’s not abandoning the mining proposal and that a revised application is in the works. We’ll need to stay vigilant to protect the Okefenokee Wilderness from this threat.
BACKGROUND: Twin Pines's 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