Originally created 12/19/97

DuPont to proceed with swamp studies



STARKE, Fla. -- The committee deciding the fate of a proposed mine near the Okefenokee Swamp agreed Wednesday to allow DuPont to proceed with environmental studies in hopes the information will guide the committee.

DuPont voluntarily put the research on hold in April after environmental groups and government officials stated opposition to the mine. DuPont vowed to cancel the project unless it could prove mining would not harm the swamp.

The 27-member committee decided to let DuPont continue its water, wildlife and land-use research.

"This information will be valuable, even if we have to expand studies to go beyond permitting," said Jerry Donnelly, business director for DuPont's white pigments and mineral products division.

DuPont officials want to mine titanium-bearing ore on 38,000 acres of land near the eastern boundary of the refuge. The mineral is used for white pigments in products such as paint and paper.

But DuPont officials said a resumption of research shouldn't be misinterpreted as an endorsement that the mining project will go forward.

"We are still committed not to go forward with this project if it would harm the swamp," Mr. Donnelly said.

Afterward, committee member Becky Shortland, a Georgia Conservancy member, said the tour demonstrated the enormity of the project.

"It made me think it is imperative we get the scientific community involved as soon as possible," she said.

Joe Hopkins, president of Toledo Manufacturing, a company that has leased timberland to DuPont near the swamp, said the tour assured him that his company's property will not be harmed by mining.

Mr. Hopkins said, "I was well-satisfied."