The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday said it has approved a permit for a massive new gold mine operation in Lancaster County.
The Corps’ Charleston District Office released the Record of Decision and issued a permit with conditions for the proposed 4,552-acre Haile Gold Mine project near the town of Kershaw (roughly halfway between Charlotte, NC, and Florence, SC). Romarco Minerals, which owns the property, plans to reactivate and expand the existing mine into the largest of its type east of the Mississippi River.
The permit decision follows a three-year environmental study and project review which examined the predicted impact on wetlands, streams, and groundwater drawdown as mine pits are excavated and dewatered during mining. The study estimated 120 acres of wetlands and 26,460 feet of streams would be impacted by mining.
As a condition for allowing the environmental damage, the Corps agreed to let Romarco acquire 4,388 acres of land along the Lynches and Wateree River watersheds and donate their ownership to the South Carolina Heritage Trust Program. Those tracts include two in Richland County and one in Lancaster County. Several environmental groups like the Coastal Conservation League and Conservation Voters of South Carolina ended their opposition after that agreement was reached.
“Issuing the permit for the Haile Gold Mine project is the culmination of a long process,” Lt. Col. John Litz, Charleston District commander, said in a statement. “We’ve received a lot of public and agency participation along the way, and believe that helped us to make the right decision for this project by balancing the economic needs of the area with the environmental responsibility of being the nation’s environmental engineer.”
Toronto-based Romarco was pleased with the decision. “We have engaged and been transparent with the local community and all stakeholders since we arrived in South Carolina,” President and CEO Diane Garrett said in a statement. “And I want to personally thank everyone for their support of the project. We will continue to manage and operate Haile under the highest environmental standards.”
The Corps decision on the “Section 404″ permit is final and cannot be appealed. But Romarco must still get a mining permit from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control before it can move ahead with the project.
Gold mining ended on the site in