The gilded South: OceanaGold writes the latest chapter in the long history of South Carolina’s Haile mine – by Ryan Bergen (CIM Magazine – August 25, 2017)

Located a few minutes from the small town of Kershaw, South Carolina, Haile has the distinction of being the only gold mine in the United States east of the Mississippi River. More to the point, unlike many new operations it is, if traffic cooperates, just an hour and a half from both an international airport and a domestic hub for air cargo.

It also has the advantage of a deep labour pool nearby and easy access to power and roads, which helped OceanaGold build the 6,300- tonnes-per-day operation for an estimated US$400 million.

Past to present

Gold was first discovered in the area in the 1820s by tenants clearing the land owned by Benjamin Haile. The first placer operations evolved to include a stamp mill, and the gold extracted helped fund the losing Confederate effort in the American Civil War. Legendary Union General William Sherman made a point of destroying Haile’s mine facilities as he and his troops returned north and operations only resumed in the 1880s when New York investors brought it back into production.

The mine eventually hit its stride once the German engineer Carl Adolf Thies introduced the barrel chlorination process at the operation and brought the recovery rate from the sulfide ore up to near 90 per cent, from 40. That successful run came to a tragic end with the explosion of a boiler in the stamp mill in 1908 (See our mining lore on pg. 74).

Gold prices rose in the 1930s and Haile was briefly brought back to life before President Roosevelt ordered gold mines – considered a non-strategic resource – to be shut. The emergence of heap leaching in the 1970s gave Haile a few more years of life.

The mine’s latest incarnation began in 2007 when Romarco Minerals picked up the property and began exploration and development, securing all of the permits by November 2014. Several months later, OceanaGold, which operates two mines in New Zealand as well as Didipio in the Philippines, took its big step into North America when it acquired Romarco Minerals for $856 million.

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