I would like to address the issue of the Twin Pines Minerals mining. In an article “County holds public hearings, workshop” in the August 7 issue of the Herald it stated the county commissioners have released a resolution in support of Twin Pines Minerals potential mining operations in the south end of the county near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and the St. Marys River. The resolution states Twin Pines Minerals would bring approximately 300 high-paying jobs with benefits and will involve a $300 million capital investment, as well as increase the tax revenue substantially, which would allow the county to increase their level of service.
Who will be getting those 300 high-paying jobs and will they reside in the county? The number has been changed to 150-200, but as with DuPont years ago, they will bring all of those employees with them from their current location. Most of these employees would not uproot their families so they would not be spending money in the county. How is this going to increase the tax revenue if they are already paying taxes on the land they own and who would benefit from this increase in the counties level of service? When the county put in the landfill on Highway 121 and then sold it we were told it would be no problem. Now most of the trash in the landfill comes from out of the state. Now they are accepting coal ash which could be polluting the swamp and the St. Marys River.
In the same article the commissioners ask Chamber Director Ashley Gowen to give an update on the economy. Ms. Gowen stated “her main focus for economic growth is tourism. Visitors in 2017 spent $35.4 billion generating $3.2 billion in revenue statewide. If tourism in Georgia was non-existent, the local tax per household would increase by $885 per year.”
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge has 600,000 visits per year, a lot of them come through Folkston and stop in our local stores and restaurants. If the mine is allowed to operate and there are impacts to the refuge and the river, what will it do to the local economy?
I was able to attend the workshop/open house that Twin Pines Minerals had at the Charlton County Annex on Tuesday, August 13. I was told they will only be replacing six-inches of topsoil after mining an area (this is after digging to a depth of 50 feet). What is going back under that six-inches? Will trees grow in just six-inches of topsoil with dirt that has no substance underneath it?
As a life-long resident of Charlton County and a descendant of the Roddenberry and Chesser families the swamp is a part of my heritage and I would hate to see my heritage destroyed. I can remember my daddy taking several of us sisters fishing on the Suwannee Canal (east entrance to the refuge) when we were growing up. I have paddled every canoe trail in the Okefenokee and have taken all of my daughters and grandchildren on canoe trips (my oldest grandson was only one and a half on his first trip). As a family, my sisters and brothers have taken canoe trips in the swamp. We have taken grandchildren, nieces and nephews along with other family and friends on these overnight trips with us. A lot of great memories have been made on these trips through the swamp. Our mother was born on Billys Island on the west side of the swamp and loved it like no other. She took her last canoe trip at the age of 82 before passing away the following year. She instilled that love in many of her children.
As a child I spent summers swimming in the St. Marys River. Myself, my husband and our daughters, along with several brothers and their families, have spent a lot of time (sometimes a week at a time) camping on the St. Marys River. I recently had the opportunity to camp on the river with a grandson, future granddaughter and great-granddaughter and introduce them to camping (the girls had never been before).
If the mining happens and destroys the swamp or the river what will we have left in the county? As stated earlier, the mining operation will bring $300 million and increase tax revenue (also increasing damage to roads). Eco-tourism brings in $3.2 billion statewide (some to visit the swamp and river and others to train watch, which also visit the swamp).