More than 100 religious leaders across Georgia have sent a letter to state and local elected officials voicing opposition to a proposed mine near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
In letters to the governor, two U.S. senators and the Charlton County Commission, ministers, rabbis and imams described the world-famous swamp as “one of the state’s seven natural wonders” and a “uniquely holy and sacred space.”
“As religious leaders representing a variety of faith traditions and backgrounds, we share a commitment to be good stewards of creation,” the letter said. “Our sacred texts and faith traditions call us to protect the natural resources which have been gifted to us and to love our neighbor by addressing the environmental injustices that impact our communities.”
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division is considering the request by Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals to mine on an 800-acre tract in Charlton County.
The proposal is opposed by environmental organizations that are concerned about the potential impacts mining could have on the 438,000-acre swamp.
“This project has been uniformly opposed by Georgians, as well as the larger American public,” according to the letter. “Together, representing faith communities across Georgia, we join our voices in opposition to the titanium mining which would damage creation and put at risk the wildlife and communities that depend on the swamp’s unspoiled habitats.”
The religious leaders said the proposed “desecration” of the swamp cannot be permitted.
“Our faith inspires us to boldly proclaim our opposition to this project as we advocate for just policies and practices that allow for all of creation to thrive,” the letter said. “Stand with us to protect God’s creation by calling for the rejection of any permits that would allow mining less than three miles from the boundary of the Okefenokee swamp and refuge.”
DuPont tried to establish a mine near the swamp in the 1990s but abandoned the project amid strong opposition.
“Since that project was shelved, tourism has steadily increased and the refuge now records 600,000 annual visits and supports hundreds of jobs,” the letter said. “The Okefenokee is also renowned for its biological diversity and provides unmeasured natural value for Georgia as it shelters and supports thousands of species in its cypress forests, pine islands, lily ponds and blackwater channels.
“Should mining proceed, the refuge — and the benefits it provides to people and wildlife — could be destroyed, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.”