Dupont agrees to halt Okefenokee mine project

Chemical giant DuPont has signed an agreement ending the company's plans to mine titanium ore near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia.

The no-mining agreement, signed in Folkston , Georgia on February 5 1999, follows nearly 18 months of negotiations.

Under the plan, approximately 10,000 acres of the proposed mining area will be added to expand the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and restored to provide wildlife habitat. The plan also calls for mining to be prohibited on an additional 29,000 acres owned by DuPont and another landowner.

The agreement includes development of an Okefenokee Education and Resource Centre, and local historic preservation and tourism-related projects. The plan is contingent upon funding from federal, state and private sources.

Covering 396,000 acres on the Georgia-Florida border, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and Wilderness Area is one of the largest intact wilderness areas in the Eastern US. It is home to one of the US’s largest alligator populations and is one of the last strongholds of the Florida black bear. Other denizens include a number of orchid species, the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker and wood stork, as well as white ibises, herons, egrets and 230 other bird species.

“The Wilderness Society made this a priority at the outset because these wildlands are so unique, and because we knew an amicable agreement was critical to both the environment and the local economy,” said Jim Waltman, Director of Refuges and Wildlife for The Wilderness Society. “This is a major achievement but it will only be realised when the federal government cuts the cheque.”

In 1997, local activists exposed DuPont’s plan to dredge 30 miles of 50-foot-deep pits along Trail Ridge, a sandy rise that serves as natural dam holding water in Okefenokee. The goal was to extract titanium dioxide, a white pigment used to make paint, paper, plastic, and other products. The mine would have operated 24-hours daily, beginning in 2002.

DuPont initiated discussions after broad local and national opposition to the plan, and formed the DuPont Collaborative Process, a committee of 28 members, including DuPont, environmentalists, Native Americans, local government representatives and others.

“We believe this agreement is fair and in the best interests of the stakeholders,” said Jeff Keefer, vice president and general manager of DuPont White Pigment & Mineral Products. “In addition, I think we’ve proven that the Collaborative Process approach can serve as a model for solving these kinds of sustainable growth disputes in the future.”

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie