In October 2011, the Charleston District began the process of preparing the environmental impact statement (EIS) needed before coming to a permit decision for the Haile Gold Mine project application in Kershaw, SC. That same month, the District hosted a public scoping meeting on the project to receive needed input from the public before starting the EIS. The event yielded numerous comments and observations that will be taken into consideration during the study process. One suggestion expressed that night was for the District to return to Kershaw on a separate night to field questions about the technical aspects of the proposed Haile Gold Mine project.
With that in mind, District representatives returned to Kershaw on January 23rd to address any questions that the citizens of Kershaw had about the project and the study process. Dr. Richard Darden, project manager, began the evening telling the approximately 200 attendees that “we may not have all the answers yet because we don’t have all the technical results” but we are going to do our best to answer the questions we can and will provide additional technical feedback at future points in the process.
Questions from the citizens ranged from potential contamination of drinking water to how wildlife will be affected. Many questions were in regards to the tailings storage facility (TSF) that Haile Gold Mine has proposed to build. The TSF, as proposed, would store ore after it has been processed and gold has been removed. The public was concerned about whether the TSF would be able to safely contain chemicals that are used in the gold mining process.
“The mining process [as proposed by Haile Gold Mine] is a state-of-the-art technology, but that doesn’t mean there is no risk of contaminants,” said Darden. “We will do a thorough evaluation of the project’s impact on surface and ground water, as well as air quality, noise and much more. It is up to us to balance the project’s proposed benefits against the environmental detriments and make a permit decision on that basis.”
At the end of the night, the residents of Kershaw seemed to better appreciate the process, even though some technical questions will not be answered until later in the process. The residents also requested that the District return again to give another presentation on how the mine process is proposed to operate. The District plans to make this request a reality in April 2012.