We are drawing near the time when the US Army Corps of Engineers will render a decision regarding Twin Pines LLC’s application to create a titanium mine next to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Already, three Georgia Mayors (St. Marys, Woodbine, and Kingsland) and the Mayor of the City of Fernandina Beach, FL, have issued strongly-worded Letters of Concern.
The proposed mine will be in Charlton County, so you might ask why it is any of Camden or Nassau County’s business. The answer: Because the St. Marys River is born in the heart of the Okefenokee Swamp, the river formed our history and shapes our culture, its wellbeing is fundamentally linked to our own, and we (like the people of Charlton County) benefit economically from the over 600,000 annual visitors to the Swamp. So it is very much our business to preserve the health of the Okefenokee, the St. Marys River, and (of course) the Floridan Aquifer.
You may be familiar with Aesops’ tale about “killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.” It illustrates the short-sighted destruction of a valuable resource for little to no long-term benefit. To use another analogy, Twin Pines holds out the carrot of “jobs, jobs, jobs” for Charlton County citizens and yet the estimated number of positions changes each time we ask; from 300-400 at the public “show” sponsored by the company to less than half that in their actual USACE application.
And what of the money spent in our areas every year by those who visit the legendary Okefenokee: 600,000 people needing food, tours, lodging, gas, local attractions and more? That spending provides local communities with 753 jobs, $17.2 million in employee income, $5.4 million in total tax revenue, and $64.7 million in economic output annually (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Banking on Nature Report, May 2019). A titanium mine on the doorstep of the Swamp threatens all of that – and more.
There is so very much for all of us to lose – and no one gains in the long run except Twin Pines, an inexperienced mining company from Alabama.
When questioned about the actual number of potential jobs for Charlton County residents, the mining process, the hydrology, and the possible devastation to the Okefenokee Swamp, Twin Pines president, Steve Ingle, took out a full-page ad in your newspaper saying, with stunning arrogance, “Frankly, I’m tired of talk.”
Stop for a moment and think about this, Charlton County friends: Over 25 national, state, and local environmental organizations oppose the project. Four Mayors from neighboring counties are deeply concerned about the project. You have been given no firm facts or guarantees about the project. A valuable resource could be irreparably damaged by the project.
So maybe, just maybe, the project is simply – wrong.