Gold mine backers dominate Lancaster County hearing

sfretwell@thestate.comApril 24, 2014 

James Arnold Sr., Romarco Minerals executive, left, and Ramona Schneider, an environmental engineer, talk about plans for the Haile Gold Mine in southern Lancaster County in 2011.

FILE, GERRY MELENDEZ, THE STATE

— Supporters of plans for a big gold mine – and the nearly 800 jobs it promises Lancaster County – stole the show Thursday at a hearing to discuss how the mining operation would affect the environment. Most of nearly three dozen speakers provided enthusiastic support for the proposed Romarco Minerals Inc. mine north of Kershaw.

They offered testimonials of how Romarco has helped schools and charities since arriving in Kershaw several years ago. Already, the company has provided more work for a community with unemployment estimated at 15 to 20 percent, mine boosters said.

Times have been hard since the textile mills closed about 25 years ago, state and federal regulators were told.

“We have had nothing going on here'” for decades, Kershaw Mayor Wayne Rhodes said. “This is a huge opportunity for us. People in the town are very much for it.”

Lancaster County real estate agent Tammy Reynolds, who helped rally support, said it’s hard to find fault with the company or its proposed mine – purported to be the largest gold mine east of the Mississippi River.

“They have just made such a big impact and done more for this community than y’all can ever imagine,”' Reynolds said. “I’m so blessed and honored to be part of a town that has this company in it.”

Thursday’s meeting, which drew more than 300 people, was in marked contrast to a federal hearing last year that generated substantial opposition to the mine. Many at that meeting questioned whether the community would suffer lingering environmental impacts from the gold-digging operation.

Romarco officials were relieved at Thursday night’s response.

“This was outstanding,” Romarco senior vice-president Jim Arnold said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control will use comments from the meeting to help decide whether to issue permits for Romarco Minerals. The company needs state and federal permission to destroy large acreages of wetlands, bury miles of creeks and draw down groundwater for the mine, which will sit on more than 4,500 acres north of Kershaw.

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