by Jenny Coyle
DuPont has agreed to abandon its plans to stripmine titanium dioxide on 38,000 acres of
land adjacent to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge - if the money can be raised to
fund a package of mineral-rights exchanges and land purchases that will permanently
protect the parcel.
DuPont had proposed to mine for titanium dioxide - used for white pigment in paint and
paper - along the eastern border of the Okefenokee, home to 1,000 plant and animal
species, some of which are endangered. The operation would have involved clearcutting
mile-square sections of trees, scraping topsoil, dredging ponds and pumping hundreds of
thousands of gallons of water from underground.
The new agreement is the product of a year-long negotiation that included DuPont,
environmental groups, elected officials and recreation-industry members. Sam Collier,
regional representative in the Club's Atlanta office, compares the deal to a James Bond
scenario: Goldfinger didn't have to steal the gold out of Fort Knox; he only needed to
irradiate it because he controlled the rest of the world's supply. Similarly, Collier
says, "DuPont is willing to back out of the Okefenokee as long as others can't get
their hands on the titanium."
A central part of the package is the formation of a world-class education and research
center to be located in Charlton County, where the mine would have been. This non-profit
organization would facilitate research into the wetlands ecosystem and serve as a land
trust to hold the mineral rights.
The pact came after years of grassroots campaign work led by the Georgia and Florida
chapters. They staged protest rallies at DuPont's annual shareholders' meetings, collected
25,000 signatures in a petition drive and engaged non-traditional allies like nature-based
tourism business owners, dentists and even Harley Davidson motorcycle riders. They also
persuaded Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt to strongly oppose the mine.
The same team is now searching for funding to buy the land and mineral rights and
increase the size of the of the nearly 400,000-acre refuge.
"We're talking to nonprofit foundations and universities, and we're urging our
congressional delegation to find the money - maybe from the Land and Water Conservation
Fund - to protect the swamp," said Josh Marks, the Georgia Chapter's Okefenokee
campaign coordinator. "There's a high environmental price to pay if this deal falls
To Take Action:Write letters to your representative and senators. Tell them that
their help is needed to save the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, one of the world's
greatest natural gems. Urge them to support funding for the non-mining proposal and thus
permanently protect the Okefenokee.
Write: U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515; U.S. Senate, Washington, DC
20510. Please send copies of your letters to the Okefenokee Campaign, Sierra Club, 1447
Peachtree St. NE, #305, Atlanta, GA 30309.
For More Information: Call the Sierra Club's Okefenokee Campaign at (404)
870-0577, ext. 222; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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