A new gold rush in Kershaw?

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By Johnathan Ryan

KERSHAW – A Nevada-based company has struck gold at the historic Haile Gold Mine in Kershaw.

The firm says the site has great potential to produce gold in the years to come.

"It is a darn good mine – a very good property," said Kenneth Brunk, chief operating officer of Romarco Minerals Inc., which has been drilling at the site, about three miles north of Kershaw, since December.

"This is a world-class gold mine. Don't let anyone tell you any different," Brunk said.

Brunk believes 100,000 ounces of gold can be mined from the site annually, starting in 2010.

The total output from the mine could be 3 million to 5 million ounces, he said. The gold mined there might rival some of the better known South African mines of today, Brunk said.

Romarco has 1,700 acres under its control, either through ownership or with an option to buy.

Romarco has found "very high grade" traces of gold during explorations. A final feasibility report on Haile's potential for gold production is due by August.

Romarco has found gold in very small, visible amounts, but mostly the precious metal has been discovered in microns, which is as small as bacteria, Brunk said.

The mine likely has significant silver findings, which is often found naturally where there is gold.

Sulfur extracts from the mine should bring in additional revenue, Brunk said.

Help wanted

To mine the site, a plant would have to be built and local help hired, Brunk said.

It would take about 130 employees, the vast majority of which will be locally hired for non-skilled and skilled level jobs in labor and maintenance paying $15 to $20 an hour with benefits.

There will be administrative and engineering jobs as well, Brunk said.

All jobs will require computer literacy, no matter what the focus, as the entire site will be computer operated.

"That's just the way it is," Brunk said.

For every mining job, three others tend to be produced in the area, Brunk added.

These jobs involve machine shops, sale of materials and utilities and warehousing.

"Whole towns have been built by these mines before," Brunk said.

Romarco has been in talks with Lancaster County and state government on its plans for the site. The total investment to construct the plant is expected to be $120 million, Brunk said.

The company is looking for potential tax incentives to build the plant here.

Romarco is traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) and closed Thursday at 19 cents a share.

Though small now, Brunk said the company's goal is to be a "mid-tier gold producer" in 10 years.

"Besides the silly stock price, we have a pretty healthy little outfit right now," Brunk said.

A handful of investors attended a luncheon Thursday at the Charlotte City Club to hear about Romarco's plans. The luncheon was also hosted by Windward Global, an investor relations firm for natural resource companies publicly traded on Canadian exchanges.

Romarco's largest shareholder is Sun Valley Gold, which is the second-largest gold fund in the United States, Brunk said.

The company is wanting to increase its share in the company by making further cash investments of about $10 million, making the exploration at Haile extra aggressive.

"We have a very good group of institutional investors," Brunk said.

Charlotte native and real estate broker Johnny White, who has toured the site and seen its visible gold, is a Romarco investor.

He said the project is "a win-win" for the various players involved, as well as the Kershaw community.

"That community will benefit greatly by the structure and infrastructure of this project." White said. "This could mean big things for them."

The site has a clean environmental record with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, which Romarco has been able to maintain, Brunk said.

Environmental permitting is the most expensive part of exploration and feasibility studies, he said.

Contact reporter Johnathan Ryan at jryan@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416