Settlement reached in Twin Pines Minerals, LLC action against U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Corps agrees to withdraw June 3rd memo that invalidated prior approvals
(Savannah, Ga. – August 22, 2022) – Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, is pleased to announce that its project is back on track. In a settlement agreement finalized today, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (the “Corps”) has agreed to reinstate the two “approved jurisdictional determinations” that it withdrew in June. As a result, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) can resume its review of the company’s permit application without further interference from the Corps.
“This is great news for Twin Pines, for our project, and for Charlton County” said Twin Pines President Steve Ingle. “We appreciate the Corps’ willingness to reverse itself and make things right. We look forward working with Georgia EPD to complete the permit process so we can bring hundreds of good-paying jobs, tax revenues, and economic development to the people of Charlton County.”
“This is the correct result legally and the best possible outcome for the project,” said Lewis Jones of Jones Fortuna LP, the law firm representing Twin Pines. “The jurisdictional determinations needed to be reinstated. We are gratified this has been done and look forward to working with Georgia EPD on its review of the state permits.”
Former EPD Director Harold Reheis, now advising Twin Pines, agrees. “This project is exceptionally well-designed. It is protective of the environment and will not harm the Okefenokee Swamp,” he said. “I’m confident that an objective, science-based analysis by Georgia EPD will lead the agency to the same conclusion.”
ABOUT THE PROJECT:
Twin Pines is proposing to mine heavy mineral sands in Charlton County, Ga. The mine will recover valuable “critical minerals,” including titanium and zirconium, which the United States Government has declared to be needed for national security or the national economy but in short supply or with supply chains vulnerable to disruption.
The proposed mine poses no risk to the environment. Contrary to some claims, the company is not proposing to “mine the swamp.” The proposed mine site, a burnt-over pine plantation, is approximately three miles away from the southeast corner of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge at its closest point, and 11 miles from the nearest canoe trail used by visitors. The mining process is clean and chemical free, relying on water and gravity to separate minerals from surrounding sands. The land will be restored to its original contours and native vegetation after heavy minerals are removed.
While opponents assert that this operation could “drain the swamp,” that is physically impossible. Except at three small, isolated areas of the mine, the mining depth will not extend below the 120-foot contour, which is above the mean surface water elevation of the Okefenokee Swamp. The mine will not drain the swamp because water does not drain uphill. Additionally, at the recommendation of the State Geologist, the company has agreed to install a layer of clay (bentonite) beneath the reclaimed surface to restore the site’s original hydraulic properties.
The project will generate hundreds of high paying jobs and is expected to almost to double Charlton County’s tax base. The Charlton County Commission is strongly supportive.
ABOUT THE LITIGATION
On June 3, 2022, the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) directed the Corps to rescind two final Approved Jurisdictional Determinations (AJDs) previously issued to Twin Pines Minerals LLC for the Saunders Demonstration Mine. The June 3 directive claimed that the AJDs were “not valid” because the Corps had failed to consult with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation before issuing them. Twin Pines filed suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, alleging the decision to rescind the AJDs violated the Administrative Procedure Act as well as Twin Pines’ constitutional rights. See Twin Pines Minerals LLC v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, et al., Civil Action No. 5:22-cv-36 (S.D. Ga.).
Twin Pines moved for preliminary injunctive relief on July 8, 2022, arguing that the Assistant Secretary’s “attempt to block this project by asserting jurisdiction the federal government does not possess — and by using pretextual justifications to achieve unstated objectives — is arbitrary and capricious and unlawful.” See Plaintiff Twin Pines Minerals LLC’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Brief in Support, Docket Entry 19.
On August 22, 2022, the parties reached an out-of-court settlement, under which the government agreed to withdraw the Assistant Secretary’s directive and reinstate fully the AJDs issued to Twin Pines.