- Associated Press - Friday, March 14, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A Canadian company is proposing to spend more than $1 billion over 15 years restarting and operating a Lancaster County gold mine that has operated periodically for almost two centuries, according to government documents.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers late Thursday released a draft environmental impact statement required before a permit to resume mining operations at the Haile Mine, a 4,500-acre site near Kershaw, can be issued.

Romarco Minerals Inc. of Toronto, Ontario, wants to mine for gold in eight open mining pits, some as much as 840 feet deep, according to a government study of the impacts of the so-called Hail Mine.

Gold and minerals have been mined in that area of the state intermittently since the 1820s.

The Haile Mine was the largest in the region and in the past produced 4.2 million ounces of gold. It closed in the early 1990s but there is still an estimated 780,000 ounces gold thought to be available for extraction.

The impact statement found that reopening the site will affect about 120 acres of freshwater wetlands and more than 5 miles of steams at the site.

The company plans to mitigate the environmental impact by protecting 4,300 acres of land in both the Wateree and Lynches rivers watersheds. Romarco has proposed creating an endowment of $9 million for the state Department of Natural Resources Heritage Trust Program. The program works to prevent the loss of critical natural habitats and significant cultural sites.

The Corps is taking public comments on the draft environmental impact statement and will hold public hearing next month.

The study found there would be major impacts to waters, wetlands and aquatic species that can be mitigated.

“Impacts on cultural resources would occur where certain cultural resources would be eliminated by construction of the proposed project,” the report said. “No other significant environmental impacts were identified that cannot be minimized, avoided, or mitigated.”

The price of gold has jumped 14 percent this year, while the stocks of gold-mining companies have been even better. The FTSE Gold Mines index of miners around the world has jumped 25 percent this year.

Gold at the end of the day Thursday for April delivery was $1,372.40 an ounce.