Updated studies indicate there are nearly 1 million more ounces of gold at Lancaster County’s Haile Gold Mine than previously thought.
With gold selling at more than $1,700 an ounce, that would be worth more than $1.7 billion extra to the Canadian company that owns the mine.
New estimates indicate there is 29 percent more gold, or 916,000 more ounces, at the site than previously thought, according to a report in the Columbia Regional Business Report.
The total gold resources at the mine, located near the tiny South Carolina town of Kershaw, stands at 4 million ounces, with another 800,000 ounces of inferred resources, according to owner Romarco Minerals Inc.
“This is a very significant system in South Carolina,” said Romarco Chief Executive Diane Garrett. “This really puts South Carolina on the map as having a world-class ore deposit.”
Toronto-based Romarco reopened the Haile Mine, originally established in 1837, in 2010 and expects to pour its first gold bar in early 2014.
The increased estimate is based on additional drilling at the 4,000-acre mine, which was abandoned for at least a decade before Romarco reopened it in 2010.
The latest results indicate that the mine has a much larger ore deposit than initially believed, Garrett added.
“We’ve done a lot of drilling to further define the continuity of the ounces,” Garrett said.
Continued exploration of the site indicates that much of the ore can be mined by open-pit methods, although it appears a considerable amount is underground, according to the Columbia Regional Business Report.
Mining underground deposits is a more expensive process, Garrett said.
The Haile mine is about 20 miles north of Camden. Established by Col. Benjamin Haile, it later furnished gold to the Confederacy before being destroyed by Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman during his devastating march through South Carolina.
The mine languished until the 1880s, when it was revived by new techniques introduced by the legendary German mining engineer Adolf Thies.
Under Thies and his sons, the Haile mine became the largest gold producer in the eastern United States. It closed in 1912, four years after a catastrophic explosion. It also operated briefly during both World War I and World War II, and in the 1990s.
So far, Romarco has spent $300 million on the Haile Gold Mine and will spend another $300 million on the project before production begins, she said.
“By the time we pour the first bar of gold, we will have put $600 million into the ground before making the first dollar,” she said.
Until a few years ago, the mine was dormant, the victim of rising production costs.
But thanks to technology advances and soaring gold prices, Romarco believes the mine can be producing 140,000 ounces of gold annually for at least 12 years, according to the Columbia Regional Business Report.