A major US mining company pledged on Thursday not to do business – at least for the next five years – with Twin Pines Minerals, the company set to mine a few miles from the Okefenokee Swamp.

“With respect to the mining activities of others, particularly Twin Pines, Chemours has no role in the proposed Twin Pines project in Charlton County, Georgia,” wrote Chemours spokeswoman Lisa Randall. , in an email. “We have no prior, existing or future interests to acquire, and no plans or intentions to acquire, the project or the business. We have no intentions or plans, now and in the foreseeable future (the five next ten years), to do business with Twin Pines, including purchasing from the project or any titanium produced by the project.

The announcement follows a shareholder proposal filed in November on behalf of the Felician Sisters of North America, an order of Catholic nuns. Sister Mary Jean Sliwinski, provincial sustainability coordinator, called the pledge a “good start.”

“There is a long way to go to protect the marsh; there is still a lot of work to do,” Sliwinski said in a Zoom interview from his office in Buffalo. “They are working on legislation. So I hope this helps. But this is the start of a process.

Sr. Mary Jean Sliwinski

State lawmakers are drafting a bill to protect the swamp from nearby mining. The Okefenokee Swamp is one of the largest intact freshwater wetlands in the world. More than 402,000 acres are protected in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, the largest refuge in the eastern United States and home to hundreds of plant and animal species.

Chemours also announced a new commitment to “ensure the value of Okefenokee is maintained” and made it clear that it has no plans to operate next to the refuge, according to investment adviser Green Century Management. who filed on behalf of the Felician Sisters. .

“We applaud Chemours’ commitment to protecting the Okefenokee,” said Green Century shareholder advocate Thomas Peterson. “Chemours’ decision to disavow any interest in the Twin Pines project sends an important signal: the industry-leading company says titanium mining next to the refuge is a no-start.”

Peterson said shareholders were also reassured by Chemours’ statement that its existing mine sites can meet the company’s titanium dioxide needs well into the 2030s.

Two decades ago, a similar shareholder proposal helped convince DuPont, Chemours’ predecessor, to abandon mining projects in the same area.

Twin Pines Minerals LLC, a private company, is seeking state environmental permits to mine a 740-acre area less than three miles from the Okefenokeee National Nature Preserve. Forty conservation organizations have banded together to form the Okefenokee Protection Alliance, which is urging the Georgia Division of Environmental Protection to deny Twin Pines the five permits needed to proceed. Their main concern is that mining so close to the edge of the swamp, especially on an area of ​​ancient sand dunes called Trail Ridge, risks disrupting the flow of water into and out of the swamp. As Green Century’s proposal indicates, disturbing the hydrology of the marsh risks reducing its biodiversity. It could also increase the risk of forest fires and the release of the 95 million metric tons of carbon dioxide stored in its peat.

More than 100,000 public comments have been filed with state and federal governments opposing the Twin Pines project, and more than 100 religious leaders from across Georgia have declared their opposition, as has a bipartisan group of government officials. state and federal officials, including Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior. under President Bill Clinton, and Hank Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury under President George W. Bush.

State Rep. Ron Stephens, a Republican from Savannah, indicated he is co-sponsoring a bill he says will be introduced next week to ban mining on Trail Ridge.

The Bill “would prohibit the Director of the Environmental Protection Division of the Department of Natural Resources from issuing, amending or renewing any permit or accepting any bond to conduct surface mining operations on the geologic feature known as the Trail Ridge between St. Marys and Satilla Rivers,” reads a draft.

Twin Pines has vowed to continue seeking permission to mine.

“We are not accountable to the shareholders of a Pennsylvania-based mutual fund, we are accountable to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division,” wrote Steve Ingle, CEO of Alabama-based Twin Pines. , in an emailed statement. (The mutual fund is based in Boston; the Felician Sisters are based in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.) “We have no affiliation with Chemours and have never been approached to sell the mine to them. We have many customers to whom we have supplied minerals in the past and we look forward to doing business with them when the time comes. We also look forward to protecting the Okefenokee using highly advanced and responsible mining methods and providing hundreds of well-paying jobs to the people of Charlton County and South Georgia.

An aerial view of the Twin Pines Minerals staging area in Charlton County. Credit: Photo by Joseph Kelly

Green Century withdraws its shareholder proposal in exchange for the public announcement of Chemours’ commitments to protect the Okefenokee.

But Sliwinsky said the sisters aren’t moving away completely. The swamp is “absolutely” in their prayers.

“(We think about it) all the time,” she said. “If we can add our voice, we certainly will.”