A Canadian company hoping to build a massive gold mine in Lancaster County has now reached an agreement with the environmental group who was seeking to block it.
Romarco Minerals agreed in a settlement announced Thursday that it would set aside twice as much cash to clean up the proposed Haile Gold Mine when it eventually closes the site north of Kershaw. The Sierra Club’s chapter in South Carolina had challenged the company’s state mining permit, arguing Romarco was not committing enough to cover any environmental damage that exceeded expectations. The company has stated it believes $60 million is plenty.
Both the Army Corps of Engineers and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control had already approved the 4,552-acre project. The Sierra Club had challenged the DHEC permit, but the agency’s refused to reconsider last month. As part of the new settlement, the environmental group agreed not to appeal the decision to the state mining council. Romarco had freezed hiring at the site until the legal action was complete.
DHEC had required Romarco to set aside a $65 million bond to cover environmental damage, including $5 million in cash. The settlement will instead require $10 million in cash, according to Sierra Club SC chair Susan Corbett.
“We’re pretty happy with the situation,” she told South Carolina Radio Network. “Obviously, if we had our way, we wouldn’t want a mine. But we understand we have to have mining in the world that we live in today because we need these precious metals. We just want to make sure it’s done in the most responsible manner for the environment.”
The Sierra Club was the last conservation group opposing the mine. Most others agreed to drop their opposition after Romarco pledged to 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 properties in Richland County and one in Lancaster County.
“We are pleased that we were able to find a way to avoid delay and litigation and keep our employees working,” Romarco CEO Diane Garrett said in a statement after the settlement was revealed.
The mine’s permit was to become effective on November 21, but that was delayed after Sierra Club filed the challenge.
The Haile Gold Mine has been the site of mining activities for the better part of two centuries. Activities stopped at the site back in the 1990s, but Romarco says technology improvements now make it feasible to dig for deeper gold deposits.