Agency says mining near Okefenokee poses ‘substantial risks’

|     Russ Bynum     |

SAVANNAH, Georgia (AP) – The federal agency that manages the vast wildlife refuge in the Okefenokee Swamp said a private company’s plan to mine minerals near the swamp edge could pose “substantial risks” to the environment, and some damage may be irreversible.

The written comments from the United States (US) Fish and Wildlife Service were provided to The Associated Press on Friday by the Army Corps of Engineers, which disclosed last week that it is considering a permit request by the mining company Twin Pines Minerals LLC of Birmingham, Alabama.

The company wants to mine titanium dioxide less than four miles from the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. It’s the largest federal refuge east of the Mississippi River, covering nearly 630 square miles near the Georgia-Florida state line.

“We have concerns that the proposed project poses substantial risks for significant affect to the environment,” the Fish and Wildlife Service wrote in a five-page response to the Army Corps dated February 20. “Should impacts occur they may not be able to be reversed, repaired, or mitigated for.”

The memo five months ago listed “preliminary concerns” with the mining proposal, said Mark Davis, a Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman in Atlanta. He said the agency is still reviewing the plan.

“Are those still our concerns? The answer is yes,” Davis said on Friday.