CHARLESTON, S.C. — A Canadian mining company and a tiny South Carolina town are leading what could be a modern gold rush to the southeastern United States.
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 Web site.
“It sits on one of the most significant trends of gold in the United States,” Garrett said. “A lot of people had forgotten just how significant the gold production was in this area.”
Romarco’s success at finding the gold left at Haile has sparked renewed industry interest in the southeastern United States.
The gold is embedded in microscopic flecks in volcanic rock along what geologists call the Carolina Slate Belt, which winds from northern Georgia through the Carolinas and into Virginia.
Vancouver’s Revolution Resources Corp said in early October that it had begun drilling at several historic North Carolina gold mine sites along the Slate Belt.
Strongbow Exploration Inc, also of Vancouver, said this summer that it had bought mine properties in South Carolina and had begun drilling at North Carolina’s historic Parker Gold Mine.
Erin Ventures Inc, another Canadian company, also is prospecting for gold in North Carolina, according to its website.
The “unprecedented climb into the stratosphere” for gold prices has spurred the eastern development, said Michael George, gold commodities specialist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Va.
“We may have three or four mines started up in the next 10 to 15 years” in the southeastern United States, he said on Friday.
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 found on the Haile property in South Carolina in 1827.
Mining continued off and on into the 1990s.