Legislation that changed the scope of the Clean Water Act last year has been overturned by a federal judge.

The ruling earlier this week restores the federal government’s responsibility to protect streams that provide clean drinking water and wetlands that provide sanctuary for wildlife.

The ruling makes the path for Twin Pines Minerals to mine heavy metals in Charlton County near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge more time consuming and difficult.

When the Clean Water Act was revised in April 2020, it eliminated the Army Corps of Engineers role in the permit process for the proposed mine and gave final approval to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

This week’s ruling means Twin Pines Minerals will have to undergo scrutiny by the Army Corps of Engineers before a permit is granted to mine for titanium and other heavy metals near the southern edge of Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

Prior to the ruling, Twin Pines was awaiting approval from from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to mine on a 577-acre tract. The permits submitted by Twin Pines included a surface mining application, soil abatement plan, and the subsurface continuity of humane-bearing sands in the aquifer document.

Now, the company will be required to undergo review by the Army Corps of Engineers for a permit to mine at the site.

“There is no greater example of the horrors of the replacement rule than the Twin Pines mining project,” said Christian Hunt, Southeast representative at Defenders of Wildlife. “This is a welcome day for the Okefenokee, the wetlands surrounding the refuge, and will force Twin Pines to reevaluate this disastrous project.”

The Okefenokee and St. Marys River were listed among America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2020 by American Rivers because of the proposed mine.

As many as 700,000 people visit the world-famous swamp each year, creating 753 permanent local jobs and adding $64.7 million into the local economy.

As one of the world’s largest remaining intact freshwater ecosystems, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is being considered for potential UNESCO World Heritage Site nomination.

More from this section