Supporters of mine near Okefenokee hint at lawsuit if Georgia lawmakers pass bill protecting swamp

Supporters of a plan to mine Trail Ridge near the Okefenokee Swamp say the local community sorely needs the economic boost. Defenders of the swamp argue it isn’t worth the risk.

The two sides battling in the nearly four-year saga over whether an Alabama company should be allowed to move forward with its plans to mine the site for titanium dioxide and zirconium were allowed to make their case to lawmakers during a two-hour public hearing held Tuesday. 

The hearing was on a bill sponsored by Thomasville Republican Rep. Darlene Taylor that would block future mining proposals at Trail Ridge near the largest blackwater swamp in North America.

But the focus turned often to Twin Pines Minerals’ pending permit application, with a company representative saying Taylor’s bill would stop the company from expanding or modifying the permit later.

The state Environmental Protection Division is accepting public comment on a key part of the proposal through next Monday. The demonstration mining project would take place along 580 acres that is located nearly three miles from the edge of the refuge.

“Any blanket prohibition of mining on Trail Ridge like those contained in HB 71 is a policy question left to the General Assembly,” EPD Director Rick Dunn said to lawmakers Tuesday.

Rep. Lynn Smith, a Newnan Republican who chairs the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee, listens to the public comments on a bill that would ban future mining applications on Trail Ridge near the Okefenokee Swamp. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

The bill is not scheduled for a vote this session, which ends March 29, and has already missed a key legislative deadline for a measure to clear at least one chamber to have a smooth path to the governor’s desk this year. But it does remain alive for next year.

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