Twin Pines Minerals (TPM), LLC held a meeting with the members of the Okefenokee Chamber of Commerce in the Charlton County Annex Auditorium Wednesday, September 12. The business supplied refreshments and passed out information packets.

During the meeting, Twin Pines President Steve Ingle gave a background history on the company and a breakdown on how the mining is done. He stated he has over 40 years experience in the mining industry. Five partners, who also have 40 or more years of mining experience, run the business. He also explained the process of the dragline method used by the company. 

“Due to our location, we wanted to come in with a new method,” said Ingle. “This would leave a smaller footprint than typical mining”.

Dragline mining does not use any chemicals or dredging, instead they use a bucket at the end of a crane. Before the process begins, workers will preserve the topsoil to be put back into place. The bucket is lowered into the ground and drug across the property. The sand is lifted and put onto a conveyer transportation system to the processing facility where it is sifted with water and gravity and sent back. Once returned, the sand then fills the pit. The process takes no more than an hour. The operation is a continuous process and while the dragline is operating, backfilling of the cut is occurring at same time. On the TIAA Mining Block of the proposed mining area, an excavator/dozer trap mining method will be utilized instead of the dragline method. This is due to the shallower depth of the mineral resource.

Many have been concerned about the possible damage caused from infrastructure. The processing plant is a modular building placed on a concrete slab with jacking points. When it’s time, transporters are brought in, they pick up the slab, and relocate the facility.

“Any damage from structures would be mitigated and fixed,” said Ingle.

The proposed property has been forested, and was then destroyed by the 2017 swamp fires. After the mining process has been completed, TPM plans to re-establish the land to the way it was before civilization by planting long leaf pines during the proper planting seasons.

“We have looked at the environment for all endangered species, and still researching endangered plants,” said Cindy House-Pearson, Environmental Lead with TTL, Inc. 

TTL is a civil engineering firm that has been serving clients for over 50 years. They offer Civil Design, Construction Services, Environmental Consulting, and Geotechnical Engineering services for clients in both the public and private sectors. TTL has over 300 professional staff that includes engineers and scientists in our offices located in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas.

During the meeting, TTL Principle Geologist Jim Smith spoke about the hydrology and geology research, which has been underway for over 18 months. The researchers have drilled approximately 1000 holes as a part of their extensive research in building models to predict the future effects of mining. TPM has worked with Dr. Robert Holt, with the University of Mississippi, on the research. 

“From preliminary models, Dr. Holt feels confident there will be no impact on the Okefenokee. We’re looking forward to sharing the data,” stated Smith. 

Also during the meeting, Jane Winkler, event coordinator for Cherokee of Georgia, asked the speakers about the shallow wells in the area, and expressed concerns about the use of the Floridian Aquifer stated in the application. Ingle stated the application requires a quantity of reserve water usage, therefore listing a 1.4 million gallon per day withdraw rate, but only to use as a reserve. Winkler stated other mines have reported with drawing the full amount, but Ingle assured her it is not the way Twin Pines Minerals operates.

“Not us. We are water sensitive,” he said.

The business expects to regain 95-98% of the water used, and will have a reservoir near the plant to catch rainwater, which will also help resupply any lost water. 

Winkler also expressed her concern over the Consent Order for Chemours Mining, who currently allows use of facilities to Twin Pines, LLC, at their current location in Starke, Florida. Ingle explained there was a small section of silk fencing, used to contain erosion, which failed and impacted less than 1/3 of an acre when Hurricane Irma blew through in 2017. He stated the failure was found by TPM employees, corrected, and self-reported to the Florida Environmental Protection Department. Due to other issues with Chemours, the Florida EPD included this discretion in the Consent.

“Twin Pines has been cleared,” he said.

Joy Campbell, with Okefenokee Adventures, asked how long restoration of the land would take following the completion of mining. Ingle stated during the mining process the land is refilled and recovered with topsoil. He also said the business would replant long leaf pines and other plants when the proper seasons allow.

Campbell also asked about the possible noise and light disturbances to the wildlife and those who live nearby. Ingle announced the equipment used is fully electric and requires no engines, which also cuts back on emissions. He also shared there would only be minimal lights used mostly for the safety of employees. 

“There would be no more lights than a Wal-Mart parking lot,” he said.

Sharon Presley, of Folkston, asked how long the monitoring would last after completion. Ingles stated the Army Corps of Engineers closely monitors the land for a minimum of ten years, and could even take longer. He expressed the corps would condition the property strenuously to check the quality and determine there was no violations of the application.

Presley also asked if Twin Pines would be willing to look outside of Charlton to find employees, as she feels they may. Ingles said he would look elsewhere, however Charlton County is top priority. He explained there would three phases of hiring, each requiring more employees.

Darlene Tait, also of Folkston, asked about the life expectancy of the project. Ingles replied, should everything go perfectly, the job could take up to 20 years. He expressed his belief in an influx to the Charlton County economy due to workers eating, shopping in, or even possibly relocating to the area. He also expressed interest in developing a training program at local community colleges.

“When we purchased this land, we became Charlton County citizens,” stated Ingle. “And we take that very seriously”.

Twin Pines Minerals recently held a job fair on Main Street for any who were interested in starting a career in mining. The company plans to hold more fairs as the application process continues. 

The comment period for the Army Corps of Engineers closed Thursday, September 12.