Twin Pines Minerals wrestles with green backlash
Conservationists have contested a proposed mining project near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, the largest wildlife refuge east of the Mississippi, stating that the project poses an environmental risk.
The 400,000-acre protected area is home to thousands of species, according to the Public News Service. It was established in 1937 and contains the Okefenokee Swamp, which is considered the headwaters of the Suwannee and St Marys Rivers.
It provides habitats for endangered and threatened species such as the red-cockaded woodpecker, wood storks, indigo snakes, and a wide variety of other wildlife species. It is also world-renowned for its amphibian population that are considered to be bio-indicators of global health.
A Trump administration rollback of federal wetland and waterway protections removed a hurdle for Twin Pines Minerals, which plans to mine approximately 8,000 acres of the Trail Ridge for titanium, the Public News Service report says.
The Trail Ridge is a natural dam that plays a critical hydrological role, ensuring that water is stored and flowing, says Christian Hunt, southeast representative for Defenders of Wildlife, a US-based, national conservation organisation dedicated to the protection and restoration of imperilled species and their habitats in North America.
"It would result in a degradation of air and water quality," Hunt contends. "It would impact the wilderness and recreational appeal of one of our last great places here in the Southeast."
Hunt explains the Okefenokee is the last self-sustaining, large-scale wetland in the lower 48 states. He points out that other wetlands, such as the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia and North Carolina and the Everglades in Florida, have also been compromised by industrial and agricultural development.
The Trump administration has removed protections for roughly 400 acres of Okefenokee-adjacent wetlands, previously covered under the Clean Water Act.
It means the Twin Pines mining project requires no federal oversight, although Hunt points out that they do still need state permits.
"Twin Pines, in short, is trying to avail itself of illegal rollbacks under the Trump administration," Hunt warns.
Twin Pines said it is "spending millions to ensure its investment in the project is sound", which it can only be if the Okefenokee Swamp, adjoining streams and environs are protected and mining work complies with all federal and state regulations.
Okefenokee, located in North Florida and Southeastern Georgia, is among the top ten most-visited wildlife refuges in the country, and an economic anchor, contributing millions of dollars to the four counties surrounding it, including Baker County in Florida.
Hunt urges concerned citizens to reach out to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD).
"Hold the Trump administration accountable," Hunt emphasizes. "And then also encourage Georgia EPD to do right by this project, and to take action that's commensurate with the value of the resource at stake."
Vale invests $150mn to extend life of Manitoba operations
Vale has announced a $150mn CAD investment to extend current mining activities in Thompson, Manitoba by 10 years while aggressive exploration drilling of known orebodies holds the promise of mining well past 2040.
Global energy transition is boosting the market for nickel
The Thompson Mine Expansion is a two-phase project. The announcement represents Phase 1 and includes critical infrastructure such as new ventilation raises and fans, increased backfill capacity and additional power distribution. The changes are forecast to improve current production by 30%.
“This is the largest single investment we have made in our Thompson operations in the past two decades,” said Mark Travers, Executive Vice-President for Base Metals with Vale. “It is significant news for our employees, for the Thompson community and for the Province of Manitoba.
“The global movement to electric vehicles, renewable energies and carbon reduction has shone a welcome spotlight on nickel – positioning the metal we mine as a key contributor to a greener future and boosting world demand. We are proud that Thompson can be part of that future and part of the low carbon solution.”
Vale continues drilling program at Manitoba
Coupled with today’s announcement, Vale is continuing an extensive drilling program to further define known orebodies and search for new mineralization.
“This $150mn investment is just one part of our ambitious Thompson turnaround story. It is an indicator of our confidence in a long future for the Thompson operations,” added Dino Otranto, Chief Operating Officer for Vale’s North Atlantic Base Metals operations.
“Active collaboration between our design team, technical services, USW Local 6166, and our entire Thompson workforce has delivered a safe, efficient and fit-for-purpose plan that will enable us to extract the Thompson nickel resources for many years to come.”
The Thompson orebody was first discovered in 1956 by Vale (then known as Inco) following the adoption of new exploration technology and the largest exploration program to-date in the company’s history. Mining of the Thompson orebody began in 1961.
“We see the lighting of a path forward to a sustainable and prosperous future for Vale Base Metals in Manitoba,” said Gary Annett, General Manager of Vale’s Manitoba Operations.