Politics & Government

EPA opposes plan for S.C. gold mine

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency opposes plans for a huge gold mine north of Camden, saying in a recent letter that the project could threaten drinking water, wildlife and creeks that drain off the site.

Romarco Minerals wants to create what would be the largest gold mine east of the Mississippi River by digging a hole that, in places, would be nearly 900 feet deep and a mile wide.

But the mine, which would employ 800 people, would excavate or fill an unusually large number of wetlands and streams — and the EPA said it can’t support Romarco’s plan.

The agency left open the possibility that it could reconsider if more studies are done to address environmental concerns.

In a March 25 letter, the EPA urged federal regulators to deny a wetlands permit needed by Romarco Minerals to move the project forward. The mine, as proposed, would destroy up to 162 acres of wetlands and seven miles of creeks near the town of Kershaw in Lancaster County.

“The proposed project has the potential to have a significant level of direct impacts to a wide variety of natural and human resources,’’ according to the letter from James Giattina, the EPA’s regional water protection division chief.

Among the EPA’s concerns are the potential for mining pollutants to contaminate drinking water and creeks, such as the Little Lynches River. It says a plan to offset some of the lost wetlands isn’t adequate.

Those comments reflect a chorus of questions by state and federal natural resource agencies, which say more extensive study is needed.

Romarco, headquartered in Toronto, wants to reopen the historic Haile Gold Mine and expand it to extract tiny bits of gold that previous mining operations could not reach. The Haile Gold Mine, widely known in Lancaster and Kershaw counties, was first started in the early 1800s and operated periodically until about 1990.

The new operation would employ about 300 permanent workers and 500 construction workers. Local industrial recruiters say the project would be a boon to the economically depressed area, which has suffered since textile mills closed more than 20 years ago. Romarco owns about 8,000 acres in the area of the Haile site.

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