Twin Pines Minerals (TPM), a private company based out of Alabama, is proposing to mine outside of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The company is promising to bring jobs and tax revenue to the county. 

“We are hoping half to three-quarters of our employees will be Charlton residents,” said Twin Pines Minerals President Steve Ingle. 

The company recently held public meetings in Folkston and St. George featuring displays of information, graphs, and an animation of how the mining would be done. While the business assures there will be little to no permanent damage, some citizens are not quite sure. The main concern has been common amongst those concerned – hydrology. 

“St. George runs on shallow wells,” said Martha Winkler, with Cherokee of Georgia, “what will happen to the water quality and supply?”

Mining this close to the refuge could disrupt the groundwater, causing issues to the swamp, and in turn, the St. Marys and Suwanee Rivers, which begin inside the Okefenokee. While TPM expects to recover 95% or higher of the water used, the company does however have a plan should it not go as predicted. Workers will set up basins to catch rain water, which will be saved to replace any lost water. Overall, experts predict there will be little to no impact to the ground or surface waters. Twin Pines specialists and Charlton citizens are still awaiting results from the hydrology report. Once the Army Corp of Engineers receives the report, more answers will become available.

The corporation has been doing research for this project for over 18 months, looking into long-lasting effects to the water, plants, and animals.

“There has been thousands of man hours put into this,” said Ingles, “and once the hydrology report is done, it will be released to the public”. 

The water is not the only concern for those who love the Okefenokee, but the animals and plants that would be affected as well. The gopher tortoise has been found within the perimeters of where the proposed mining will take place. Geologists with TPM, stated the tortoises would be moved to a safer location during their less migratory seasons to ensure they find new homes outside of the mining area. They also stated the business would not only backfill and regrade the grounds after mining, but during proper seasons, would replant native longleaf pines, claiming to leave the acreage even closer to the way the land was originally found – before civilization.

The Georgia Wonder is close to the hearts of not only Charlton County residents, but anyone who has visited the land of trembling earth, and is important for sustaining the lives of surrounding residents. While attendees may have learned new information from the meetings held last week, many are still asking for full impact statements and more than anything, more time.

The public comment period for the proposed mining will end September 12. Anyone wishing to submit a comment should either mail a letter to the Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, Attention: Ms. Holly Ross, 1104 North Westover Boulevard, Suite 9, Albany, Georgia, 31707, or send concerns by email to holly.a.ross@usace.army.mil.