COLUMBIA, SC A Canadian corporation is looking for gold in an area of South Carolina near the historic Brewer mine, an abandoned operation that once produced tons of the precious mineral but today is undergoing a major pollution cleanup.
Pancontinental Uranium Corp. said in a news release this week that it had acquired 100 percent interest in a “high potential, advanced exploration stage gold project’’ in “mining friendly South Carolina.”
The release did not say if an open-pit gold mine will be dug, but indicates that exploration will occur. Experts say it would not be surprising for a company to search for gold because north-central South Carolina has a history of metals mining.
Company officials said the Pancontinental property is in the Jefferson area near the old Brewer Gold Mine and within seven miles of the Haile Gold Mine, which is reopening in Lancaster County. It is comparable in size to the Haile site, the release said. Drilling in 2011 indicated gold deposits on the land where Pancon has interest, the news release said.
“The Pancon Board believes we are in the early stages of a significant bull market for gold and the Jefferson gold project provides us with an excellent advanced exploration opportunity to capitalize on this renewed interest in gold,” the news release said, noting the company planned to change its name to Pancontinental Gold Corp.
Under South Carolina law, the company would need approval from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to explore or mine for gold. So far, DHEC has no pending applications to explore or mine for gold in the Jefferson area, spokeswoman Cassandra Harris said Friday.
The area of interest consists of about 1,500 acres under lease by private landowners who own mineral rights. The Jefferson area where the search is occurring is along the Chesterfield-Lancaster county line, north of Columbia and not far from the North Carolina border
Pancontinental’s website says it is a Canadian-based company that focuses on uranium and rare-earth minerals. The corporation has been exploring for minerals in Australia and has worked a joint venture with a corporation from that country.
Scott Howard, chief geologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, said he had not heard of the effort in Jefferson, but it is not unusual for companies to look for gold in South Carolina. He said exploration doesn’t necessarily mean a company will mine for gold.
“Some of these companies are willing to spend the money and do some drilling,” Howard said. “They’ve gotten enough information to say ‘Let’s put a few holes in there.’ ”
Strongbow Exploration, a mining corporation, in recent years searched the Ridgeway area of Fairfield County for gold. That search was near the site of the closed Ridgeway Gold Mine.
Romarco Minerals, a Canadian company that launched a project to reopen the old Haile Gold Mine near Kershaw, looked for years for gold deposits until making the decision to mine the area about 20 miles north of Camden.
Pancontinental’s search could prove lucrative, if past mining is any indication of what might lie beneath the surface. The company says the old Brewer Gold Mine extracted up to 12 million tons of gold. Today, gold is worth more than $1,200 per ounce.
The Brewer mine operated in Chesterfield County from 1987-95, but ran into environmental troubles and closed. The Brewer mine is now a federal Superfund site that has cost taxpayers at least $12.9 million to monitor, stabilize and clean up. It is one of two abandoned gold mines undergoing a Superfund cleanup. The other is in McCormick County, where taxpayers are spending at least $14.5 million on cleanup work.
The Pancontinental, Brewer, Romarco and Ridgeway sites are all in a gold-containing slate belt that runs through the Carolinas. The belt has been mined off and on since the early 1800s and still is believed to have significant gold deposits.
Romarco merged with a more experienced mining company, OceanaGold, last year after securing all of the necessary mining permits to reopen and expand the Haile mine. The Romarco mining area, where excavation is expected to start by year’s end, has up to 4 million ounces of gold in the ground.