State environmental regulators have rejected a challenge to a proposed gold mine in Lancaster County.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control board turned down an an appeal by the Sierra Club, the agency said Monday. The State newspaper reports the board sided with a permit for Canadian firm Romarco Minerals Inc., to reactivate and expand an existing mine into the largest of its type east of the Mississippi River.
The 4,552-acre Haile Gold Mine project near the town of Kershaw (roughly halfway between Charlotte, NC, and Florence, SC) was approved by federal regulators in October. The Sierra Club challenged the permit, saying the $60 million that state officials have required Romarco to set aside is not enough for a environmental cleanup after mining activities finish. Romarco insists $60 million is plenty for the site. The Sierra Club is now considering an appeal to the state mining council.
The permit decision by the Army Corps of Engineers followed 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 directly impacted.
Most environmental groups dropped their objections to the project after Romarco agreed 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 in Richland County and one in Lancaster County.
Romarco has said it would freeze hiring at the site until the legal action was complete.