It was a packed house when nearly 400 residents of Kershaw, S.C., and Lancaster County, S.C., piled into the Andrew Jackson Recreation Center to hear about the latest developments in the Haile Gold Mine permit process and voice their concerns and questions to representatives of the Charleston District.
The community meeting began with an hour long meet-and-greet session where residents were able to talk with representatives from the District and other agencies about the project. Here, the Corps debuted a new interactive, graphic presentation of the proposed mine plan and its environmental effects. The map, available at www.HaileGoldMineEIS.com, takes users through the various elements of the mine during different stages of the proposed 14-year mining project. The map shows the proposed site as it appears now and what differences there would be each year if the project is approved. The map also has user-friendly pop-out boxes with explanations of each element of the project.
After the meet-and-greet session, Dr. Richard Darden, project manager and biologist, led a presentation on the District’s alternatives analysis report, progress on groundwater modeling work, and schedule milestones for the remainder of the project. The applicant’s July 2013 revised mitigation plan to compensate for losses of wetlands and streams at the gold mine site prompted comment and questions from many attending the meeting. The plan proposes acquiring three ecologically important tracts of land, Rainbow Ranch in Lancaster County and Cooks Mountain and Goodwill Plantation in Richland County, for donation to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ Natural Heritage Program.
“The proposed plan is unusual, but not unprecedented,” said Darden. “Haile Gold Mine proposes a large-scale project with significant impacts, which may necessitate the need to look beyond the local watershed for compensation.”
Darden stressed that the proposed mitigation plan is only in the review stage now. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement, scheduled for release in March 2014, will address the entire project’s impacts as well as mitigation plans.
At the project’s first public meeting, in October 2011, residents asked for future meetings that would help explain the process along the way. While not a legal requirement, this community meeting was held as an extra effort to keep the public informed about the project and the Corps’ process.