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Haile Gold Mine In Upstate SC Gets 12-Month Regulatory Delay

Efforts to reopen a nearly 200-year-old gold mine in Upstate South Carolina hit a snag over the weekend. Federal regulators say the mining company Romarco Minerals must prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement that will set the project back 12 months All the easy-to-reach nuggets in the Haile Gold Mine about 60 miles south of Charlotte are long gone. But a Toronto company called Romarco Minerals is undeterred. "The gold's still in the ground, we're still finding it," says Romarco President and CEO Diane Garrett. The Haile Gold Mine opened in 1827 and operated on and off until about 1990. Romarco is trying to reopen it and extract tiny chards of gold from rocks dug out of a pit nearly 900 feet deep and a mile wide. The EPA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have expressed concern for nearby wetlands and streams. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has now ordered Romarco to complete an Environmental Impact Statement - or EIS - for the project, which Garrett says will delay the mine's opening by a year. On a conference call with investors Monday, Garrett called the decision "disappointing," but not entirely negative. "The EIS provides the hard look at the project that, while causing a delay in the near term, will, over the long-term create the thorough review that our shareholders can take comfort in - knowing that future uncertainty has been removed," said Garrett. Until now, federal regulators had indicated Romarco would only need to complete an Environmental Assessment of the mining project, which is not as exhaustive as a full Environmental Impact Statement. But Garrett says the Environmental Assessment was sure to face court challenges, which an EIS may be able to head off. Romarco has set aside $2 million for the additional study. It originally hoped to begin production at the mine in early 2013. That date will now be 2014. Company officials have said the mine would employ 800 people in the area near Kershaw, South Carolina.