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EPA, Fish &Wildlife Want Stronger Studies For Haile Gold Mine

Stock trading was shut down today for the company that owns the Haile Gold Mine in South Carolina. Romarco Minerals stock plunged 17 percent Friday morning on the Toronto Stock Exchange upon news that the EPA recommends a key water pollution permit be denied until an Environmental Impact Statement is conducted. WFAE's Greg Collard reports. The head of the EPA's water protection division says the mine should require an Environmental Impact Statement because the operation poses a "significant level of direct impacts" to natural and human resources. For example, 162 acres of wetlands will be gone and stream habitats will be lost. The EPA also has concerns about the effect on water quality and wildlife. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has also requested an Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS. "An EIS introduces delays to the project that we just don't think are necessary," says Jim Arnold, the Haile Gold Mine's chief operating officer. The current plan is for the mine to begin production in early 2013. He says an EIS would delay that by a year. "There just ends up being a lot longer comment period on it, and we think we've got all that information, and we don't think the environment or the people of South Carolina would be served by adding those additional delays. Romarco Minerals of Toronto has been trying to reopen a mine where gold was first discovered in 1827. Since Romarco arrived in 2007, the size of the mine property has grown from about 1,800 acres to 9,000 acres today. Arnold says he believes the company can address all of the EPA's concerns. He says some investors don't understand this is part of the permitting process, which is what necessitated shutting down trading for about four hours. "When they see 'EPA requests a denial,' they think the project's done and dead, so there's a bunch of selling based on that. When I say there's a lot of people that don't understand the permitting process, a lot of that is people (investors) overseas." The project is alive, but Arnold should find out in 90 days if it's delayed. That's when the Army Corps of Engineers expects to decide if an EIS is necessary before it issues a permit to bury wetlands.