According to the Rock Hill Herald, dominant on the landscape, industrial-scale gold mines provided jobs and tax revenues for parts of three decades in small communities that came to depend on the economic support. But big open-pit gold mines had such an impact on the environment that Montana effectively banned new ones 16 years ago.
Now, as a Canadian corporation looks to develop an industrial-scale gold mine in South Carolina, Montana is struggling with the mess these massive operations left behind. Bankruptcies, sloppy mining practices and sometimes lax oversight created expensive and dangerous problems that other states could learn from as a new wave of gold exploration extends to the Southeast, Montana regulators say.
“We have had long and painful lessons,” said Warren McCullough, a bureau chief with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. “I would hope other states would look at that and keep that in mind.”
The mine proposed for South Carolina, which would be larger than any gold digging operation in the eastern United States, would be an open-pit mine similar to those in Montana.
Unlike underground shaft mines, open-pit gold mines are massive operations that rely on blasting huge craters in the earth’s crust to extract microscopic gold particles that are embedded.