By George Miller, 3-21-23
Last week we published an article on the proposed Twin Pines titanium ore mine, discussed at the March 13 Nassau County Board of Commissioners meeting:
The application period has dragged on for over five years, with a complex application process, multiple jurisdictions, impact studies, opposition statements and more. A hearing was held this week in Atlanta, GA, in the state of primary jurisdiction, since the site is in GA and potentially affected downstream waterways are mostly there, too.
In our previous article, we mentioned that we had contacted the applicant, impact study firm, Commissioner McCullough (who initiated the presentation) and St. Mary’s Riverkeeper for comments. We did not have these by publication time, but now have three of the four, plus the hearing video for you here:
Nassau Commissioner Alyson McCullough
Commissioner McCullough, who invited the presenter, is a great lover of the St. Mary’s River and longtime resident of the nearby area to it in Hilliard. While she said she understands the “closed loop” approach to handling the wastewater, has read the relevant materials and heard presentations, she still needs it proven to her that it will not have an adverse long term effect (7-15 years) on the aquifer/ecosystem. She wants a sustainable conservative approach that is not a calculated risk and does not believe that what she has seen so far is worth that risk. She believes that the bulk of the economic benefit to the area is short term, not that great and that very little of that would accrue to our county (you can read applicant’s claims in the Twin Pines section below). Her fear is that if it does go wrong, it would be forever or at least a very long time.
She said that the Army Corps of Engineers started working on this 5 years ago. She added that St. Mary’s Riverkeeper representative Floore’s comment during the March 13 meeting that this was Trump’s fault, due to Rivers of The US being eliminated while he was in the White House “rubbed “fell flat” with her and her husband and that it would fall flat here in Nassau County, too (see our linked above meeting report). McCullough observed that Georgia has more jurisdiction over the project, since the site and most of affected downstream waterways are in GA, but agreed that Florida could also weigh in on it.
St. Mary’s Riverkeeper
Around 50,000 comments have been submitted on the application. Comment period just closed. St. Mary’s Riverkeeper submitted the following:
St. Marys Riverkeeper Opposes Mining Permit
Thank you to everyone who made their voices heard to GA EPD regarding the proposed Mining Land Use Plan submitted by Twin Pines Minerals, LLC for the Saunders Demonstration Mine in Charlton County, GA. The St. Marys River and its headwaters, the Okefenokee Swamp, are pristine waterways and are too important to risk with untested mining methods from a company that has a negative track record of environmental stewardship.
Twin Pines Minerals & 3-14-23 Hearing Video
A PR agent for Twin Pines provided the following response to our request for comments:
Below is a statement you may attribute to Steve Ingle, president of Twin Pines Minerals. It is comment he provided to a subcommittee of the Georgia House Natural Resources and Environment Committee via video during a hearing last week (3/14) at the state capitol.
If you are interested in more information, a video of the entire hearing is available on the Georgia House of Representatives website. Supporters of Twin Pines and the legal and scientific responses to opponents’ claims are in the second half starting at the 1:30:30 mark.
“We propose to mine titanium and zirconium on 582 acres of land in Charlton County that, at its closest point, is 2.9 miles from the southeast corner of the Okefenokee Refuge boundary and even farther from the swamp itself.
“The actual active mining footprint is both small and shallow – 1.5-to-2.5 acres – advancing 100 feet per day at a maximum depth of 50 feet. Sands and soils will be processed onsite and simultaneously returned via conveyor to refill the mine pit in a continuous operation. The average time any given portion of the mining pit will be open is only five days and present elevations and land contours will be restored.
“Our mining will be done utilizing an electric dragline excavator. This process is a cleaner and much more environmentally friendly approach versus the standard “wet mining” technique, which uses petroleum powered equipment and a dredge and floating concentrator.
“Our plan focuses on more than simple replacement of sand and soils, but on restoration. This tract was part of an area that was commercially forested for more than a century. Following mining activities, we will enhance the property by plant indigenous pines.
“Once our mining and restoration activities have been completed, we plan to donate a significant portion of the property to the state for conservation.
“Of highest importance to us is protection of the Okefenokee and the surrounding environment. Aside from the altruistic belief that it is the right thing to do, it is just good business. There is no way we would do anything to harm the swamp which could expose us to regulatory action and put our investment in this project at risk.
“The mine will provide good-paying jobs and economic development in Charlton County and the surrounding areas. The project is expected to provide between 100 and 200 full-time positions. The mine will also provide a significant boost to the local and regional economies, while generating millions in state and local tax revenues. In fact, the project will almost double Charlton County’s tax base when it is completed and has been expressly endorsed and is supported by the Board of Commissioners of Charlton County and the City of Folkston and Charlton County Development Authority, where it will be located.
“With the noted support of local leadership and many others in the community, including people who have inquired about employment opportunities, a lot of folks are ready to get to work, and so are we.” – Steve Ingle, president, Twin Pines Minerals, LLC
3/14 GA Hearing video:
George Miller is Publisher and Co-Founder of Citizens Journal Florida, based in Fernandina Beach. He is a “retired” operations management consultant, software and publishing executive and manufacturing management professional.