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Editorials| Editorials

Conservationists are not known to cheer the expansion of a gold mine. It is not often that a mining company or environmentalists come to an agreement that provides financial and environmental protections that exceed South Carolina law.

While we applaud the environmentalists, we believe the importance of an agreement among the state’s top conservation groups and OceanaGold goes beyond the sprawling Lancaster County mine to virtually any clash between those seeking to preserve our natural resources and those looking to make a reasonable profit from our land and water.

It should.

Editorial: SC continues to pay the high costs of inaction

Columbias State newspaperOceanaGold has reached an agreement with the Coastal Conservation League and the Conservation Voters of South Carolina. This agreement allows the company to expand its Haile Gold Mine on 4,500 acres to 5,400 acres.

The company will pay another $10 million in return for the $10 million required by state law to a cash trust fund to pay cleanup costs. Negotiations are ongoing to raise the $50 million bond to $80million to pay for cleanup and restoration.

Editorial: South Carolina's land, water more precious than gold

The weakness of South Carolina’s current mining law is evident in the fact that such an agreement was required.

The more common sand-and-stone mines are known to degrade the quality of life for neighbors. They cause problems like dusty roads and visual damage. This creates tensions between the mine owners and residents. It is possible for a gold mine to violate strict regulations. Cyanide is used for the separation of gold from pulverized sulfur rich ore. This continues to leach sulfuric acids in waste areas called tailings lakes and releases toxic metals like arsenic. This deadly mixture of pollutants can migrate into our drinking water supplies, contaminating it for generations.

Editorial: SC's parks, forests and refuges deserve more protection from mining

South Carolina’s mining law has many flaws. It doesn’t allow residents to have enough say in large-scale new operations that could transform their communities and it doesn’t give regulators enough power over water and air quality. Its biggest problem is that it doesn’t require mining companies to raise enough money to fix any environmental problems that may arise after they leave.

The state is too quick in returning cash and releasing bonds. This is why negotiators told The State, that DHEC cannot return any money OceanaGold to OceanaGold until at most 25 years after water quality at the mine site has returned back to acceptable standards.

State law is vulnerable to other operations that could degrade our environment, including radioactive, hazardous, medical, and municipal landfills. South Carolina has a long history where taxpayers are left holding the bag when companies leave the state or go under after degrading our environment. This includes hazardous waste dumps on Lake Marion’s shores, used tire dumps in Moncks Corner, Jasper County, and so-called recycling operations.

John Tynan, Conservation Voters, tells our editorial staff OceanaGold’s agreement is in line with efforts to convince legislators these new or potentially dangerous industries should have financial assurances to protect the environment as well as protect taxpayers’ wallets.

Editorial: $1 million settlement underscores need for nurdles regulation, SPA openness

That’s not been an easy sell. It’s a shame that conservation groups are forced to sue companies for concessions they should be able to demand. We are grateful that someone is protecting our interests. We were especially encouraged by this agreement because it sends a clear message to companies that are in the crosshairs of environmentalists: If your company is truly committed to running a clean operation then conservation groups are willing and able to work with you.

OceanaGold must pay for cleanup if it leaves behind a mess. If it doesn’t leave behind any mess, it will get almost all its money back. This is exactly how it should operate.

Editorial: Awendaw's failed park has many fathers. Summey is just one.

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