Romarco Minerals Inc. reopened the historic Haile Gold Mine near Kershaw, S.C., this year and expects to pour its first gold bar there in early 2014, Chief Executive Diane Garrett told Reuters this week.
Once environmental impact studies and permits are complete, Haile will be the only modern gold mine east of the Mississippi River, Garrett said, and the first since the Kennecott Minerals mine closed in Ridgeway, S.C., in 1999.
Based on the proven gold reserves found in samples, the Toronto company estimates it has 3.1 million ounces of gold at Haile. The mine will produce an average of 150,000 ounces of gold a year for five years, according to its website.
Gold prices this week posted their biggest gain in six weeks, buoyed by optimism about European plans to contain the region’s debt crisis. U.S. gold futures for December delivery were up $14.50 at $1,683 an ounce.
Gold was first discovered in the United States in 1799 when a 12-year-old boy found a large nugget in a North Carolina creek. The story goes that his family used the nugget as a doorstop until a jeweler bought it for $3.50, said Kenneth Taylor, North Carolina’s chief geologist.
“There are hundreds of old gold mines all over North Carolina,” Taylor said. “When the gold rush in California came in (in the 1840s), the experienced miners were here in North Carolina, so they went west.”
Romarco owns about 10,000 acres that include the 4,200-acre mine site. The company has spent about $350 million on site preparation and hiring and, by the time it produces gold, will have spent about $650 million, said Garrett, the chief executive.
“Mining is a capital-intense industry,” said Garrett, whose company also owns two gold exploration sites in North Carolina. “When you look out West, this mine is quite small. Out there you’ve got mines that go for 20 miles and go thousands of feet deep.”
The environmental impact study will take about a year and has set back groundbreaking and hiring, she said. The mine has 106 employees, she said, and Romarco expects to hire up to 800 mostly local workers.
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