Resources

The Okefenokee Protection Alliance, a coalition of more than 40 organizations, has coalesced to save the Okefenokee Swamp. This resource page provides descriptions of problems with Twin Pines Minerals LLC’s proposed plan to mine Trail Ridge; hydrological models examining what could happen to the swamp during mining; and maps about recreational water trails in the swamp and on the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers.

Okefenokee Protection Alliance Talking Points

Key Messages for Okefenokee Protection

  • The Okefenokee Swamp holds significant economic, ecological, cultural, and historical value to local communities and all Georgians — and this globally treasured resource should be protected from any mining activity.
  • It is critical that elected officials and state regulators step in and play an important role to protect the Okefenokee Swamp from mining. 
  • Trail Ridge, the site of Twin Pines’ proposed mining operation, is not only ecologically important in and of itself, but also serves to protect the integrity of the Okefenokee Swamp.

Ecological health

  • Twin Pines, an Alabama-based mining company, is attempting to operate an 8,000-acre heavy mineral sand strip mine at the doorstep of the Okefenokee Swamp. This project threatens to jeopardize the ecological health of this iconic natural treasure.
  • Twin Pines’ proposed mining project would dig pits up to 50 feet deep into Trail Ridge, a feature integral to maintaining surface water and groundwater hydrology in the Okefenokee, St. Marys River, and surrounding areas. 
  • Given the peat-rich, fire-prone landscape of the swamp, even a small change in water levels could have significant adverse impacts on the swamp ecosystem and surrounding communities.
  • The Okefenokee is one of Georgia’s largest and most important carbon sinks, storing the equivalent of 145 million tons of carbon dioxide in forests, aquatic plants, soils, and peat. Peatlands account for 65% of the carbon stored in the Okefenokee. When peatlands are dewatered, they release vast quantities of carbon-rich greenhouse gasses, exacerbating climate change.
  • By disturbing the sediments on Trail Ridge, the mining process is likely to release toxic contaminants, including radionuclides and heavy metals, into the swamp and nearby surface waters like the St. Marys River.
  • The Okefenokee Swamp is home to the headwaters of two recreationally and ecologically significant rivers, the Suwannee and the St. Marys. Due to its proximity to the proposed mining operation, the 120-mile long St. Marys River and its blackwater stream ecosystem is particularly vulnerable to toxic contaminants and changes to water level.
  • Mining on Trail Ridge could harm and potentially kill threatened and endangered wildlife, including the gopher tortoise, a keystone species, as well as destroy important habitat. 
  • The Okefenokee is home to a stunning array of biodiversity. The Swamp is home to bald eagles, bobcats, black bears, and 13,000 alligators. Several endangered and threatened species reside in and rely on the Okefenokee, including gopher tortoises, wood storks, indigo snakes, and red-cockaded woodpeckers. Over 850 plant species are found in the Okefenokee, from giant 400-year-old cypress trees to carnivorous pitcher plants and water lilies. 
  • Light and noise pollution from Twin Pines’ proposed mine would also degrade the visitor experience in the neighboring Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and Wilderness Area where visitors fish, paddle, camp, and observe wildlife.

Recreational/economic importance

  • At more than 400,000 acres, the Okefenokee Swamp is a National Wilderness Area, the largest National Wildlife Refuge in the eastern United States, a Gold-tier International Dark Sky Park, and a National Natural Landmark, a designation reserved for “the best examples of biological and geological features” in the country. 
  • Local residents depend heavily on the Okefenokee Swamp for stable jobs and quality of life — visitors from across the world visit the refuge for boating, birding, fishing, photography, adventure, hunting, camping, and solace.  
  • The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge attracts nearly 725,000 visits a year, supports more than 750 jobs, and generates an estimated $64.7 million in economic activity in the four counties surrounding the Refuge.
  • The National Park Service has nominated the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge to become the first refuge to receive UNESCO World Heritage Site Status–a non-regulatory designation reserved for international sites of universal value and exceptional natural beauty. Its nomination received support through 13,000 comments from across the country. Only a handful of sites in the United States, like the Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone and Yosemite, have been awarded UNESCO status. Should the Refuge be designated, the swamp would earn its rightful place beside these iconic natural wonders, further catalyzing tourism in the area. 

Clean Water Act and federal water protections

  • The drastic reduction in federal wetlands protections due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2023 Sackett decision makes it more important than ever that the Georgia Environmental Protection Division step up and fulfill its obligations under state law and for Governor Kemp and the Georgia legislature to pass comprehensive state protections for Georgia’s wetlands.

Immense opposition to the project

  • Twin Pines’ proposed mining project has drawn an unprecedented level of opposition—throughout all of the opportunities for public comment to Georgia Environmental Protection Division and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, there have been nearly 200,000 comments submitted in opposition to the mining proposal and in support of the Okefenokee Swamp. 
  • It is not just environmental and conservation organizations opposed to Twin Pines’ risky mining project— local communities, federal and state officials, legislators from both sides of the aisle, independent experts and scientists, and faith leaders have spoken out in favor of protecting the iconic Okefenokee Swamp.  
  • A September 2022 poll shows that 69% of Georgians and 75% of south Georgians want Gov. Brian Kemp to take “immediate action” to protect the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge from a proposed mine near its border. 

Titanium dioxide mining 

  • The key mineral that Twin Pines’ hopes to mine is titanium dioxide, a commonly occurring mineral. Ninety-five percent of titanium dioxide is refined into pigments that are primarily added to paint, paper, and plastic. Only a fraction of the remaining 5 percent is turned into titanium metal.
  • In 2022, more than half of the titanium dioxide mined in the United States was exported.

Fast Facts on the Permit Process

  • Twin Pines has four state permit applications currently pending: Surface mining permit, groundwater withdrawal permit, stormwater discharge permit, and air pollution permit.  
  • Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) has said it will hold at least two sixty-day comment periods before issuing any state permits. The first of these comment periods closed on 3/20/23. EPD is currently reviewing the comments and additional Twin Pines submittals and, if it opts to move forward, will open a second sixty-day comment period on draft permits.  
  • Georgia Environmental Protection Division should deny the permits. Twin Pines has not met its burden under the Surface Mining Act or met its burden to show that its proposed groundwater use will not unreasonably impact other water uses in the area.

(February 9, 2024)

OPA Member & Partner Comment Letters to the EPD (2024)

Click here to view the Comment Letter to the EPD from all Okefenokee Protection Alliance member groups

Click here to view Georgia River Network’s Comment Letter to the EPD

 

OPA Member & Partner Comment Letters to the EPD (2023)

Click here to view UGA Professor Dr. Rhett Jackson’s Letter to the EPD

Click here to view Georgia River Network’s Comment Letter to the EPD

Click here to view Senator Jon Ossoff’s Public Comment to the EPD

Permit Application

2023:

Click here to visit EPD’s Twin Pines announcements page for all recent materials and correspondence between EPD and Twin Pines

2020 & prior:

Click here for Twin Pines revised Permit Application and the Corps’ Public Notice on March 2020 for a 735-acre demonstration mine

Click here for Twin Pines original Permit Application and the Corps’ Public Notice from July 2019 to mine 12,000 acres in multiple phases

Click here for a recording of the virtual public meeting on May 13, 2020.

OPA Member Group Comment Letters to the Corps (2020)

SELC Supplemental Comments to Corps on May 28, 2020

Georgia River Network Comment Letter to Corps

Other Resources

A Letter From the Science Community – The science and engineering community has composed and signed a letter about the most-likely effects of a mine near the Okefenokee Swamp. Read the letter here. 

A Letter from 100+ Faith Leaders – Over 100 Faith Leaders have signed a letter calling on public officials to protect the sacred Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Read the letter here.

Poster Presented at the Georgia Water Resources Conference 

PowerPoint Presented at Okefenokee Swamp Park

 

Okefenokee Protection Update as of December 2023

A new recording of” ‘Okefenokee’, a rally cry to protect the Okefenokee swamp from the threat of mining, is out now!  ‘Okefenokee’ was written by Rena Ann Peck, musician Michelle Malone and  Jim Woodcox to capture sounds of the swamp. “This is my war cry,” Peck said. “Singing it fortifies the fire in my heart to save the wild heart of Georgia, our Okefenokee Swamp.” Listen to ‘Okefenokee’  on Michelle Malone’s Spotify.

New strides have been made to weaken the economic case for the mine by targeting the corporate boardrooms governing some of the project’s largest potential customers. Shareholder proposals have been submitted to Home Depot, paint retailer Sherwin-Williams and the chemical and material manufacturing giant Chemours to secure promises from the companies to not buy or sell products containing titanium extracted from the mine.

Nearly 20 faith leaders gathered at the Okefenokee for a prayer vigil to pray for the swamp’s protection. The  faith leaders signed a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia House Speaker Jon Burns (R-Newington) asking for the denial of the Twin Pines permits and the passage of the Okefenokee Protection Act. The prayer vigil was organized by Georgia Interfaith Power and Light

Brookhaven City Council passed a resolution urging Gov. Brian Kemp to protect the Okefenokee Swamp. The Okefenokee is “facing a grave threat,” said the Brookhaven resolution, from a proposal to stripmine along the eastern hydrologic boundary of the swamp.

Okefenokee Protection Update as of October 2023

OkefenokeeSwamp park received nearly $500,000 in federal funding to research and tell the story of the Okefenokee Swamp Civilian Conservation Corps Company 1433. The almost 200 all-Black conservation corps worked to build bridges and roads, firebreaks, planted trees, developed recreational facilities and more in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge starting in 1937. This corps carved out, by hand, the Okefenokee Wilderness Canoe Trail, a main attraction in swamp-based tourism.

U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff is delivering a $1.6million federal grant through the Land and Water Conservation Fund to improve resources and preservation measures at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and renovate campgrounds at Stephen C. Foster State Park. The state park was recently named Most Outstanding Site Operation at the 2023 Georgia State Park Managers Conference.

DeKalb County passed a resolution to protect the Okefenokee Swamp in the face of a threat posed by a proposed titanium strip mine. Numerous counties and cities, including Echols County, Ware County, Clinch County, Wayne County, Kingsland, St. Marys, Brunswick, Jesup, Homeland, Waycross and Valdosta also have resolutions in opposition to the mining proposal.

Okefenokee Protection Update as of September 2023

Last month, we announced that the National Park Service received over 10,000 comments in support of nominating the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The National Park System  officially selected the Okefenokee for the international world heritage site bid.

Your comments made a difference! 

“The decision is the result of consultation with the Federal Interagency Panel for World Heritage and the review of public comments submitted in response to an earlier notice,” the Federal Registrar notice stated. 

The National Park System can now prepare a nomination. WABE reported that “the United States can only nominate one location each year for the United Nations honor, and the National Park System (NPS) ultimately selects the singular nominee from a list of proposed options” of many bids. The Okefenokee is the first unit in the National Wildlife Refuge System to be nominated. The AJC reported that the Okefenokee could join the ranks of other globally-recognized sites, such as the Everglades and Yosemite National Park in the United States, and internationally-acclaimed  areas of natural beauty, such as the Great Barrier Reef and Victoria Falls.

Three Resolutions passed at the local level to protect the Okefenokee. These Resolutions will encourage members of General Assembly to pass the Okefenokee Protection Act. 

We are now awaiting a decision from EPD to either deny the permit or issue a draft permit, which will open a 60-day public comment period.

At this juncture, you can take action by emailing Governor Kemp to ask that he:

(1) Oppose allocation of mining permits from the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to Twin Pines Minerals, and
(2) Support legislation that can protect the Okefenokee for generations to come

Okefenokee Protection Update as of August 2023

Last month, we asked you to:

1. Email Georgia legislators and ask them to sign the Okefenokee Protection Act.

2. Urge Governor Kemp to oppose Twin Pines Minerals mining permit application now being reviewed by Georgia EPD.

3. Comment to National Park Service to consider Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We are proud to announce your public comments to the National Park Service were heard! Over 10,000 comments were received, which shows an outpouring of support. Thank you for taking action! The comment period to the National Park Service is now closed.

We still need you to take action to email Georgia legislators to sign the Okefenokee Protection Act and urge Governor Kemp to oppose the mining permit.  You can do both of these actions on protectgeorgia.org by clicking the button below:

Okefenokee Protection Update as of July 2023

Even though the Okefenokee Protection Act HB 71 did not get called for a vote in the House during the 2023 Georgia legislative session, 93 legislators (more than half the House of Representatives) signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, a historic level of bipartisan support. Advocacy efforts continue for the Okefenokee Protection Act to be introduced and passed during the 2024 Georgia legislative session.

A Supreme Court ruling in May rolled back federal wetlands protections, which excludes many Georgia lands from federal oversight. Barring action from Congress, the only way protections can be strengthened in Georgia will be through the Georgia legislature and state-level rule making.

The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge has been nominated for inclusion as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the National Park Service is now accepting public comments. The swamp patently meets the UNESCO committee’s requirements for protection, integrity, and biodiversity.  Attaining World Heritage Site status will raise the visibility of the Okefenokee and boost ecotourism.

It’s more important than ever to reach out to Georgia lawmakers and Georgia EPD and urge them to protect the Okefenokee! And one of the best ways we can protect the Okefenokee is to celebrate the significance of the swamp as a natural wonder.

Your actions today can help protect the Okefenokee for generations to come.

  1. Ask Georgia legislators to sign the Okefenokee Protection Act.
  2. Urge Governor Kemp to oppose Twin Pines Minerals mining permit application now being reviewed by Georgia EPD.
  3. Comment to National Park Service to consider Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Need help crafting your comments?

Please see the Okefenokee Protection Alliance’s Okefenokee Talking Points below.

Twin Pines Minerals LLC Mining Proposal Update as of January 2023

On January 19, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division released Twin Pines Minerals LLC’s draft Mining Land Use Plan (Draft Plan) and opened the 60-day public commenting period – allowing concerned citizens and Swamp advocates to voice their concerns and opposition to Twin Pines’ mining proposal.

More information on the Draft Plan can be found at: https://epd.georgia.gov/twin-pines

Please submit your comments on the Draft Plan and your support for the Okefenokee Swamp by March 20 by clicking here, via email to: twinpines.comment@dnr.ga.gov.

Or via mail to:

Land Protection Branch
4244 International Parkway, Atlanta Tradeport, Suite 104
Atlanta, GA 30354

Need help crafting your comments?

Please see the Okefenokee Protection Alliance’s Okefenokee Talking Points below.

“Okefenokee Protection Act” (HB 71) Update as of January 2023:

On January 24, State Representative Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville) introduced House Bill 71, the Okefenokee Protection Act, to prohibit the Georgia Environmental Protection Division from issuing, modifying or renewing future permits or accepting bonds to conduct surface mining operations on the Okefenokee Swamp’s Trail Ridge beginning on July 1, 2023. A bipartisan group of 35 legislators co-signed the bill to demonstrate their support.

The legislation was prompted by Twin Pines Minerals, LLC’s plan to develop heavy mineral sands mines along Trail Ridge, the sandy ridge that runs along the eastern border of the swamp and helps keep the Okefenokee intact.

Proposals to mine this area have surfaced since the 1990s. While HB 71 would have no impact on the mining permit currently being weighed by the EPD, it would prohibit future mining along Trail Ridge.

Click the button below to tell your legislators to support the Okefenokee Protection Act.

More information about the Okefenokee Protection Act can be found at: https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/63631

Need help crafting your comments?

Please see the Okefenokee Protection Alliance’s Okefenokee Talking Points below.

Maps

Water Trails

The refuge is part of the National Water Trail System, one of only 21 designated trails in the U.S. Explore the Okefenokee Wilderness Area Canoe Water Trail, St Mary River Water Trail and Suwannee River Wilderness Water Trail.  To learn more about Georgia Water Trails, click here.

Georgia River Guide Mobile App

Plan your next paddling or boating trip on the Okefenokee Wilderness Area Canoe Trail, St. Marys River Water Trail or Suwannee River Water Trail using the Georgia River Guide mobile app. Learn more and download this free resource here.