Mar 17, 2023 - News

Public comment period to close on Okefenokee mine proposal

The Okefenokee is one of the world's largest intact blackwater ecosystems. Photo: Thomas Wheatley/Axios

The public comment period for a controversial mining proposal near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge closes on Monday.

Driving the news: The Georgia Environmental Protection Division has already received nearly 50,000 comments on a permit request by Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals to mine titanium and zirconium on 582 acres of land, according to an agency spokesperson.

Why it matters: Some scientists have warned that mining — even just nearby to the swamp — could endanger the hydrology of the largest blackwater wetland in North America.

  • The permit could be the final hurdle in a yearslong fight over the mine pitting environmentalists against local officials and the mining industry.

Catch up quick: U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) is among the commenters, urging state lawmakers to reject the proposal and "heed" the warnings of scientists who have opposed the project.

Of note: Gov. Brian Kemp has not taken a stance on the project. He told reporters in January that the agency is "following the process that we have here, like we follow for any permit. That's all I've asked the department to do. We're being consistent in the way that we govern through EPD."

Meanwhile, a bipartisan bill in the state legislature would not affect this permit, but would ban any future mining near the Okefenokee Swamp. It got a hearing this week but hasn't seen any votes.

  • Ossoff and U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) are also lobbying the federal government to nominate the Okefenokee as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What's next: Submit any comments to [email protected]. More details can be found here.

  • After the comment period, EPD could take months to finalize a review of the proposal and determine whether a permit should be issued.

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