A company trying to get a permit to mine titanium near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge has been told the nation’s biggest manufacturer will not buy the mineral if it is mined near the world famous swamp.
That’s the challenge facing Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals after an announcement Thursday that The Chemours Company has announced it will not do business with Twin Pines or buy titanium mined from the proposed site anytime in the foreseeable future.
Chemours announced a further commitment to “ensure the value of the Okefenokee is maintained” and make it clear that it has no plans to mine next to the refuge, said Thomas Peterson, a shareholder advocate for Green Century, a company that uses an investment strategy to help investors with green and sustainable investments.
“We applaud Chemours’ commitment to protect the Okefenokee,” Peterson said. “Chemours’ decision to disavow any interest in the Twin Pines project sends an important signal. The leading company in the industry is stating that titanium mining next to the refuge is a non-starter.”
Green Century filed the proposal in November asking Chemours to address the serious risks mining next to the Okefenokee would pose to the swamp’s unique biodiversity, as well as the 95 million metric tons of carbon dioxide stored within its peat.
"Given that Chemours is one of the world's largest producers of titanium dioxide, we imagine it sends a very strong signal to the rest of the global titanium market that Okefenokee titanium isn't needed for the market and more importantly is simply not worth the risk," Peterson said. "No titanium mineral customer should want to facilitate a mining project that scientists believe could damage a unique and renowned natural resource like the Okefenokee. We believe that Chemours' announcement makes it clear that there is no business case for mining on Trail Ridge next to the Okefenokee."
The company’s action follows in the footsteps of DuPont, its corporate predecessor. DuPont abandoned a mining project next to the Okefenokee in the late 1990s, pledging instead to protect the area.
“These are the sorts of cases where big commitments about sustainability get tested and we learn whether corporate pledges on climate and biodiversity are to be trusted,” said Ivan Frishberg, chief sustainability officer for Amalgamated Bank, which supported the engagement with Chemours. “We are very glad that Chemours has gone beyond requesting trust and is offering assurance that the Okefenokee is off limits.”
Scientists believe the proposed Twin Pines mining project would lower the swamp’s water level, causing serious damage to the ecology and wildlife habitat. This excavation would also dry out the swamp’s peat beds to greater depths, promoting the spread of catastrophic fire, which would release enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, opponents said.
Chemours joins a long list of stakeholders committed to maintaining the Okefenokee’s value.
More than 100,000 public comments have been filed with the state and federal governments opposing the Twin Pines project, and over 100 religious leaders from around Georgia have declared their opposition, as have a bipartisan group of state and federal officials, including Bruce Babbitt, Interior Secretary under President Bill Clinton, and Hank Paulson, Treasury Secretary under President George W. Bush.
The widespread public opposition has received national media coverage.