QUARTERMAN: Swamp, Suwannee more valuable than titanium

John S. Quarterman

A company wants to mine on Trail Ridge, between the St. Marys River and the Okefenokee Swamp, which is the headwaters of the Suwannee River.

The Charlton County Commission passed a resolution in 2017 thanking Lowndes County for assistance during the big fire in that same area.

“Gateway to the Okefenokee” says the sign as you exit Interstate 75 southbound into Valdosta.

Twin Pines Minerals promises jobs, taxes and low impact. Yet just across the state line in Florida, miners made all those same promises and nobody can name any local people employed.

The miners have told multiple organizations they want to ship the ore to Starke, Fla., for processing. That’s in Bradford County, between the New River and the Santa Fe River, which flows into the Suwannee River.

During Hurricane Irma, the only pollution spills in the Suwannee River Basin in Florida (other than truck wrecks) were three from Chemours mines on Trail Ridge in Baker and Bradford counties.

Do we want to risk that on Trail Ridge in Charlton County, Ga., where downhill is either the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge or the St. Marys River? That river is a favorite local recreational resort. The refuge, directly and indirectly, supports hundreds of jobs.

We need a real environmental impact statement before we let miners risk the Suwannee River headwaters in the Okefenokee Swamp, or its tributaries the New or Santa Fe rivers.

The Charlton County Commission meets in Folkston the first and third Thursdays of the month, so apparently Aug. 1. The miners promise public meetings, Tuesday, Aug. 13, in Folkston, and Wednesday, Aug. 14, in St. George. We don’t know time of day or address yet. Aug. 13 is the deadline for public comment on Application SAS-2018-00554 to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

To comment, or to request a public hearing, you can write to Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, Attention: Ms. Holly Ross, 1104 N. Westover Boulevard, Suite 9, Albany, Ga. 31707, or by email to holly.a.ross@usace.army.mil. Please refer to the applicant’s name and the application number in your comments: Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, 2100 Southbridge Parkway, Birmingham, Ala. 35209, Application Number: SAS-2018-00554.

For the requested state permit regarding Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, you can send a comment or request for public hearing to Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division, Water Protection Branch, 7 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Atlanta, Ga. 30334.

Today I am sending a request to extend the ridiculously short 30-day deadline. It took most of a week for anyone to get copies of the 565-page complete permit application, and it will take more time to digest it. See http://wwals.net/?p=49677. The burden of proof is on the miners. Let’s hold them to it.

John S. Quarterman is the Suwannee riverkeeper, with WWALS Watershed Coalition.

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