The 49ers of California’s 1849 gold rush got all the publicity, but many of them actually came from an earlier gold rush in South Carolina that started in 1827. Now Romarco Minerals Inc. is pioneering a new gold rush in the Haile Mine, which is located within the Carolina slate belt that trends from Georgia to Virginia and has hosted many gold deposits in five states. Romarco Minerals’ Haile Mine project will use newer, more environmentally friendly technology and take advantage of the many resources the area has to offer.
“We will be processing through the crushing plant 7,000 tons of material a day, and that will yield an average of about 150,000 ounces of gold a year,” CEO and Director Diane Garrett declares. “Our costs to produce 1 ounce of gold are less than $400 an ounce. So we not only will be one of the lowest cost gold producers in the industry for open pit mining, but also have one of the lowest capital costs – $320 million – to build our facility. In addition, the Haile Mine will be one of the highest grade open pit mines in the industry, averaging 2.06 grams of gold per tonne.”
The region’s infrastructure contributes to keeping costs low. “We have great infrastructure already,” Garrett emphasizes. “We are off a paved road. We have water, power and an outstanding skilled local workforce.”
Several power companies in this area of South Carolina have both nuclear and hydro power available. “Power costs are fairly low in the area, and Romarco will be negotiating for competitive rates,” Garrett declares. Housing is readily available for workers within just a few miles of the mine.
The Haile Mine project has been in the permitting phase for a year and a half. “We’re hoping to have that completed by late next summer 2013,” Garrett estimates. “It will take about 15 months to build the facility.
“We are targeting our first gold pour in early 2015, and that will become the first cash income we generate,” Garrett adds. “We have one of the highest grades of open pits. Our reserves come in at 2.06 grams per ton of gold concentration. Most open pit mines in North America average around 1 gram. This is a very economically robust project.”
Unlike other exploration companies, Romarco Minerals plans to mine its resource itself. That was the goal when Garrett joined the company in 2003 and when Romarco acquired the Haile Mine in late 2007.
A gold processing technique called heap leaching – in which crushed gold ore is sprinkled with a diluted cyanide solution – will not be used by Romarco Minerals at the Haile Mine. The rock containing gold – or “ore” – will be crushed, and then processed through flotation cells and carbon tanks. Waste rock will be disposed of at a tailings facility. All processes will be carried out without exposing materials to the outside environment, she points out.
The plan is for gold mining at the Haile Mine to last 13 1/2 years given the current reserves of 2 million ounces of gold. Romarco will continue its exploration drilling activities and hopes to be increasing its reserves and mine life, Garrett says. “The goal for Romarco is to have multiple producing mines,” she notes. “We are hopeful that we will be able to use our expertise and have additional discoveries and producing mines in the area.”
Besides North and South Carolina, regions of Chile, Brazil and other South American countries are being considered for exploration and development.
Although gold prices are high, gold stocks are low because of uncertain economic times, Garrett reports. “The challenges we face are beyond our control,” she says. “Everything within our control, we feel we have a good handle on.” EMI