The SMRK is regularly testing Boone’s Creek, a tributary that runs through a possible mining site in the Georgia Okefenokee Swamp Trail Ridge. The creek, surrounding wetlands and the entire St. Mary’s River could be affected if the Alabama-based company Twin Pines Minerals begins operation. Determining accurate baseline measurements is important so that the levels of contaminants being introduced can be closely monitored. The company is waiting for state permits to be approved before beginning operations.
A new federal regulation called the Navigable Waters Protection Rule went into effect June 22, 2020. The rule changed the way wetlands are defined in the Clean Water Act so that federal permits and environmental impact statements will no longer be needed before building near certain waterways.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ruled that because of this change, it lacked jurisdiction over 376 acres of land within the proposed mining site, so Twin Pines can proceed if the Georgia Environmental Protection Division approves five permits.
Parts of the refuge’s Trail Ridge is rich in titanium and other heavy minerals. In the past, attempts to mine there have failed due to concerns about the Okefenokee. Titanium is a strong, lightweight mineral used to build everything from missiles and jet planes to orthopedics and consumer electronics. The Georgia mine will use the titanium to make pigments that whiten cosmetics, paint and other consumer products. There are other titanium mines in the area, but none that would affect so many wetlands.