The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) has released draft permits for a controversial proposed titanium mine near the Okefenokee Swamp.
Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals is planning to mine titanium dioxide on Trail Ridge, the Okefenokee’s eastern hydrologic boundary.
While company executives have said the project would not harm the swamp, scientific studies have concluded the proposed mine would significantly damage one of the world’s largest intact freshwater wetlands.
“This is a dark day in Georgia’s history,” Josh Marks, an environmental lawyer and president of Georgians for the Okefenokee, wrote late Friday in an email to Capitol Beat.
“EPD may have signed a death warrant for the Okefenokee Swamp, our state’s greatest natural treasure, by moving forward with a project that independent scientists say will draw down the swamp’s water level, making it three times more likely to suffer drought conditions and increasing the risk of landscape-level fires that will destroy private property and release tens of millions of tons of CO2 (carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere.”
The project’s opponents have bombarded the EPD with more than 200,000 public comments against the mine, while more than a dozen cities and counties in the region and across the state have passed resolutions calling for protecting the Okefenokee. Legislation before the General House of Representatives would ban surface mining near the swamp.
Twin Pines President Steve Ingle called the EPD evaluation of the company’s application for permits a “thorough” review of the proposed mine.
“The exhaustive hydrology, geology, biology, and herpetology studies, as we have said all along, have been validated,” Ingle wrote in a prepared statement. “We expect stringent government oversight of our mining-to-reclamation project, which will be fully protective of the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge and the region’s environment.”
The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) urged Georgians concerned about the proposed mine to respond during the 30-day public comment period on the permits.
“While this moves Twin Pines one step closer towards its goal to dig for minerals on 8,000 acres along Trail Ridge, these permits are only drafts,” said Bill Sapp, a senior attorney with the SELC. “The reason Georgia EPD posts draft versions of the permit is because our state leaders give the public a chance to make their voices heard.”
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