Romarco aims to mitigate gold mine’s environmental impact
By Chuck Crumbo
Published March 17, 2014
Reopening the Haile Gold Mine in Lancaster County will affect some 1,100 acres of wetlands and about 5 miles of streams on the 4,550-acre site, according to a report posted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
However, the mine’s developer — Toronto-based Romarco Minerals — said it will mitigate the environmental impact of the mining operation by protecting 4,300 acres of land in both the Wateree and Lynches rivers watersheds.
Romarco, which proposes to spend more than $1 billion over the next 15 years to restart mining operations at Haile, said the Army Corps and S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control will hold a joint public hearing April 24 in Kershaw to gather comment on a draft Environmental Impact Statement released on Thursday.
The document is key to the company’s efforts to acquire the necessary permits from state and federal authorities, including a 404 Wetlands permit, before it can pour the first bar of gold mined from the S.C. site. Final publication of the statement is scheduled for July.
Mining operations would directly affect about 120 acres of the mining site and indirectly impact another 982 acres of wetlands “where groundwater drawdown in excess of 1 foot would occur for sustained durations during both the active mining and postmining periods,” the report said.
The company proposes to offset the impact with a compensatory mitigation plan that includes more than 1,100 acres of a nature preserve along the Wateree River in lower Richland County.
Called Cook’s Mountain, the preserve was sold for $3.8 million to Haile Gold Mine Inc., according to NAI Avant, a Columbia commercial real estate company. The land is about 17 miles east of Columbia, stands 374 feet above sea level and comprises 1,131 acres of hardwood forest that’s home to doves, deer and wild turkey.
The site is named for James Cook, a cartographer who produced A Map of the Province of South Carolina in 1773.
The land would be part of a 3,700-acre conservation area that Romarco would donate to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources if the company receives the necessary permits to develop the mine.
Haile Gold Mine had previously acquired a 700-acre plot in Lancaster County, known as Rainbow Ranch. The land adjoins Forty Acre Rock, which also is owned and managed by the state agency.
Romarco’s spending on the project includes $822 million for land, equipment, materials, and goods and services and $284 million for labor, the statement said. Between $572 million and $776 million would be spent within the four-county area centered on the Kershaw site.
The company expects to directly employ an average of 270 workers during the 15-year developing and mining phases at Haile. The average annual payroll would be about $17 million, the documents, said.
State income taxes collected during the life of the project are project to reach $35 million, sales taxes total $1.4 million, and property taxes and fees reaching $1.1 million, the statement said.
Total gold resources at the mine near Kershaw stand at 4 million ounces — both measured and indicated — plus another 800,000 ounces of inferred resources, according to Romarco.
Romarco, which hopes to produce the first gold bars between the fourth quarter of 2014 and first quarter of 2015, estimates the mine can produce 140,000 ounces of gold annually for at least 12 years.
Gold closed on Friday at $1,381.50 per ounce, about 14% below what it sold for a year earlier.
Gold was first discovered on the site in 1827, and the mine operated intermittently through the 1980s. Romarco acquired the property in late 2007 and reopened the mine in 2010.