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Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge Threatened by Proposed Strip Mine

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Twin Pines Minerals of Birmingham, Alabama has applied to the State of Georgia and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for permits to begin strip mining on thousands of acres adjacent to Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.  The permit application for Phase 1 calls for the use of drag lines to excavate land next to the refuge to an average depth of 50 feet over 2,400 acres.  Later work, continuing for as much as 30 years would impact almost 12,000 acres.  Similar mineral deposits exist the entire length of Trail Ridge, which is adjacent to the eastern edge of the Swamp.  The potential for strip mining along the entire eastern boundary of the refuge is therefore very real.

Heavy mineral sand mining operation in north Florida – similar to that proposed for the location near Okefenokee NWR.

This permit application is reminiscent of a proposal made by DuPont over 20 years ago.  Outrage over the possible impact to the refuge resulted in DuPont terminating their plans.   Twin Pines is proposing to try again and the threat to the refuge and the nearby St. Mary’s River are greater than ever.

Possible impacts include changes to the hydrology resulting from a disruption of the soil and sand ridge next to the refuge.  Application is also being made for use of groundwater for the mining operation which could further alter the hydrology of the Swamp.  Water is critical to the well being of Okefenokee – lowered or altered water levels could easily change the unique ecology of the Swamp.  Public use and Wilderness values could be impacted due to the close proximity of the mining activity.  Air quality and loss of hundreds of acres of wetlands are anticipated.  

The Okefenokee Swamp is one of the world’s largest blackwater swamp ecosystems.   Miraculously, it has remained almost entirely intact.  The Swamp thus provides unique opportunities for scientific research on hydrology, plant ecology, fish and amphibian populations, and other wildlife.  Over 700,00 people visit the Refuge each year generating an estimated 750 jobs in the region and over $64 million in revenue annually.  Recognized worldwide as a Wetland of International Importance and designated as Wilderness by the U.S. Congress the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is a resource too precious to be risked for relatively short term gain.  All of these possible impacts need to be thoroughly evaluated before issuing a permit.

The Corps of Engineers is seeking comment on the proposal by September 12, 2019.  Public comment is critical to making sure that the possible impacts on Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge are addressed fully before deciding to permanently change this special place.

Comments should be sent to:

Commander

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Savannah District

Attention:  Ms. Holly Ross

1104 North Westover Boulevard

Suite 9

Albany, GA. 31707

Or by email to:

holly.a.ross.@usace.army.mil

Permanent link to this article: http://archived.refugeassociation.org/2019/08/okefenokee-national-wildlife-refuge-threatened-by-proposed-strip-mine/

4 comments

  1. Bren says:

    National Refuge Means to me that this is land that CAN NOT BE DEVELOPED AND SHOULD NOT BE DEVELOPED-EVER!!!

  2. Phillip Schenker says:

    Why would you want to allow strip mining in one of the kids beautiful, pristine areas in this country? It’s been a haven for campers, hikers, hunters, etc. As well as for scientific and ecological research. Don’t allow corporate greed for the almighty dollar to devastate this area

  3. Walaka Pendergrass says:

    This is devastating to hear to say the least. We take our children there often. This is a NATIONAL REFUGE!!! Greed is all this is, and it’s threatening the lives of millions of animals that feel safe on this beautiful piece of land.

  4. Martha Winkler says:

    My husband and I spend our free time within 3 miles of the proposed first tract for mining. Our concerns are not only for wildlife and water, but include safety issues with the dramatic increase in truck traffic on 2 lane, unlighted roads, and increased rail traffic at crossings without lights or bars. The seldom discussed second tract is adjacent to the National Wildlife Refuge boundary. The hydrologic system of the Swamp extends well past the boundaries of the Refuge and needs to be protected.

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