Stop the King Tract Mine from Destroying Gullah/Geechee Land

The Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition is calling on you to stand with the citizens of Awendaw, SC to stop the King Tract Mine from destroying Gullah/Geechee land. Please stop and sign the petition:

https://www.change.org/p/town-of-awendaw-stop-king-tract-mine-in-awendaw

Let Kimberly Castaneda tell you why you should be helping to take this stand to protect Gullah/Geechee land.

Gullah/Geechee people are descendants of various African and Indigenous ethnic groups who were pushed towards the coastal islands of southeastern United States, from the St. Johns River in Florida to the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. Gullah/Geechee people have had an extraordinary dependence on waterway abundance. Fisheries play a major role in the socioeconomic standing of the community where the top industries of the Gullah/Geechee Nation are seawork, agriculture, and tourism. Ocean acidification from carbon emissions, sea level rise from climate change, and land rights issues continue to barricade the connection Gullah/Geechee people have to the ocean and land. 

The Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association (GGFA) was founded to protect the fishing rights and cultural heritage of Gullah/Geechee people, yet these efforts continue to be jeopardized by big corporations and companies who wish to expand their businesses along the Intercoastal waterway where the Gullah/Geechee Nation is located. Among such companies are King Tract LLC, who wish to expand their southern sand mine off Seewee Road from 5 acres to an insufferable 60 acres. Draft permits from the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control include more than 900 acres reserved for future projects. The Awendaw community and numerous other citizens of the Gullah/Geechee Nation are concerned about the water quality as well as the wildlife in Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.  Residents of Awendaw and members of the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition continue to stand side by side in protest against this sand mining. 

The projects, as addressed by King Tracts attorney, states that the sand mines will be used, “ …in various road building and construction projects elsewhere in the low country.”   Last year’s DHEC investigation revealed several violations of the PH limit of 6.5 to 8.5 in the intercoastal waterways of Awendaw by King Tract LLC. The company violated its permit with its current 5 acre mine by discharging water with low PH to surrounding waterways. Acidic water can dissolve some of the copper in pipes, where it can then be consumed in drinking water by those living in Awendaw. Long term exposure to high amounts of copper can lead to serious health problems, including but not limited to liver and kidney problems. Even short term exposure can cause stomach problems, nausea and vomiting. The acidic water from industrial pollution can be high in lead, arsenic, nickel, cadmium, zinc etc. which can potentially lead to heavy metal poisoning and toxicity symptoms including suppression of the immune system, abdominal pain, diarrhea, weakness, shortness of breath and more. Children, particularly, have more severe side effects from heavy metal exposure, linking the increased risk of respiratory issues, heart disease, certain cancers and developmental delays. Pregnant women exposed to heavy metals have higher chances of having miscarriages, stillbirths, or a child/children with birth defects. 

Toxic runoff is already contributing to ocean acidification.  Water acidification has a tremendous impact on calcifying organisms such as oysters, shellfish, coral, and shea urchins. Acidification causes more carbonate ions to bond with excess hydrogen, resulting in a decrease in the amount of carbonate ions available for calcifying organisms that need to maintain their shells, skeletons and other calcium dependent structures. Non-calcifying organisms such as fish and seaweed feel the effect of acidification as well. Fish have a harder time detecting predators and locating suitable habitats when waters are more acidic. A trophic cascade in the ecosystem occurs with the endangerment of these organisms. Even non-sensitive species may still be affected when its competitors, predators, and resources are affected by water contamination. The extinction of prized seafood as the water acidifies continues to threaten the survival of Gullah/Geechee people in the Sea Islands. 

Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation (www.QueenQuet.com) warns that Gullah/Geechee culture, “will not continue to thrive or survive if we [Gullah/Geechees] are displaced from the Sea Islands.” Gullah/Geechee people are unified by what they have in common, and in this case, they all have a reliance on the ocean to maintain their livelihood and culture. Gullah/Geechees have historically harvested from Intercoastal Waterway in the way that their African and indigenous ancestors did since the 1600s. Since then, they continued to be dependent on waterways for their harvest of seafood. People in Awendaw and in other communities are either fishers or depend on the local fishery directly and indirectly, so when the fishery is put at risk by corporations or companies, the whole community is at risk.

In response to the DHEC investigation, King Tract LLC released a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) to fix the problem with the current 5 acre mine. That being said, there is little reason to believe that the company will ensure the protection of the wildlife and waterways in Awendaw. They were careless with the 5 acre mine, there is no reason to think they won’t be careless with a sand and clay mine that is 10 times the size of the current one. 

King Tract LLC should acknowledge the negative environmental, cultural, social, and economic impacts that their mines will create in the Awendaw community. They should understand that communities, such as the Gullah/Geechee community, have a strong reliance on the ocean to uphold their culture and traditions. Slip ups in the environment, especially with an initiative this big, can be irreversible. In this case, even if major corporations and companies pay the community to “fix” the problem, the community’s way of life will forever be altered. Gullah/Geechee people, who value the conservation of their traditions and culture, will suffer greatly because they will be forced to, once again, adapt to a new lifestyle that further distances their ties to their African and Indigenous roots. The risks are too great to ignore.  It is our responsibility as allies to support the cause against the King Tract mine expansion. 


REFERENCE MATERIALS:

https://scdhec.gov/sites/default/files/media/document/BOW%20Permit%20Modification%20Memo%20%28June%2019%2C%202020%29.pdf

https://www.uswatersystems.com/water-problems/acid-water-low-ph

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/acidic-water#side-effects-risks

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324941518_Effects_of_contaminants_and_trophic_cascade_regulation_on_food_chain_stability_Application_to_cadmium_soil_pollution_on_small_mammals_-_Raptor_systems

https://grist.org/article/gullah-geechee-worry-their-unique-island-culture-wont-survive-climate-change/

https://fisheries.org/2015/07/the-gullahgeechee-fishing-association/

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