Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) has filed public comment to the state of Georgia urging it to reject a requested mining permit near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
Why it matters: The Okefenokee is the largest blackwater wetland in North America, and the mine’s opponents warn it could damage to the swamp’s ecosystem.
- Twin Pines, the Alabama mining company behind the project, maintains there will be no effect on the swamp and points to economic benefits for the Southeast Georgia region.
What they’re saying: Ossoff told reporters Wednesday he has “grave concerns about the potential damage, irreparable damage to this precious natural resource to the state of Georgia.” He said he’s urging Georgia’s environmental protection division to “heed” the warnings of scientists who have opposed the project.
- Twin Pines declined to comment to Axios.
Catch up quick: U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland urged the state not to approve the mine last year after visiting it with Ossoff.
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — which protects and manages the swamp — has said the proposal would have “major negative impacts” to the Okefenokee.
- In his comments, Ossoff cited the agency and a report by University of Georgia hydrologist, Rhett Jackson, who said the mining plan “fails to address key environmental issues.”
Zoom in: The proposed titanium and zirconium mine would sit on 582 acres of land a few miles from the swamp in an area known as Trail Ridge. The company has vowed to restore the area to “pre-mined surface contours” and replace topsoil and native plants after building, but opponents and some scientists fear the damage a mine could do to the hydrology of the swamp and its ecosystem.
Flashback: The Okefenokee was the site of another battle between a mining company and environmentalists in 1997. Back then, environmentalists and the Department of Interior quashed a much larger proposal by DuPont.
Of note: Gov. Brian Kemp has not taken a stance on the project. He told reporters last month that the agency is “following the process that we have here, like we follow for any permit. That’s all I’ve asked the department to do. We’re being consistent in the way that we govern through EPD.”
State of play: Public comment is open until March 20. There are virtual public comment sessions next week.