Hiring begins for Haile gold mine in Lancaster County

Romarco Minerals is taking applications for its Haile gold mine near Kershaw in southern Lancaster County.

The hiring process begins as the Toronto-based mining company has secured all the necessary federal and South Carolina permits to mine the land where Col. Benjamin Haile discovered gold in 1827.

Romarco also is completing a $300 million finance package that will allow the company to move forward, Diane Garrett, Romarco’s president and chief executive officer, said Friday from the company’s local offices in Fort Mill.

The financing should be completed by Feb. 11, Garrett said.

With the financing in place, Romarco will begin to hire the 350 permanent workers needed to mine the microscopic gold.

Romarco is permitted to mine 2 million ounces, and the company believes there may be an additional 2.8 million ounces that would be economical to mine under current market conditions.

The price of gold Friday was about $1,294 per ounce and has frequently been above $1,300 recently. At $1,300 per ounce, the 2 million permitted ounces are worth $2.6 billion.

Garrett said the price of gold would have to drop to $750 an ounce for it to be uneconomical to mine the gold at the Haile site.

Romarco plans to use local contractors for construction of the mine’s infrastructure. Garrett said contractors would need about 1,000 workers.

Applications for permanent and construction jobs are being taken at the SC Works office at 705 N. White St. in Lancaster. Applications can be filed online or at the office, Garrett said.

Screenings of applications will be done by Romarco, and the company hopes to begin making offers to employees by the end of February, Garrett said.

Weather permitting, the company hopes to break ground at the Haile site in March. The first construction project will be a water treatment plant, Garrett said, followed by moving lots of dirt.

The mine will be the largest open-pit operation in the state, comparable to mines in the western United States. The mine would cover 2,500 of the site’s 4,000 acres, and pits could be as deep as 840 feet.

Construction is expected to take 18 months, with the first gold bar being poured by mid-2016, Garrett said.

“This has been seven years in the making; we’re very excited,” Garrett said.

Initially, Romarco had hoped to start pouring gold in 2013.

Getting the necessary permits took longer than the company anticipated. There are environmental concerns as gold mining at the Lancaster County site is expected to produce tons of hazardous liquid and solid waste of various kinds. Federal and state environmental laws are designed to make sure the waste does not contaminate surrounding lands, waters, fish and other wildlife.

Romarco will put up $10 million in cash to pay for any environmental damage and necessary cleanup. All told, Romarco is posting a bond of $65 million for cleanup work.