An agreement has been met between Williamsburg County and a company wishing to operate a mine in Earles. On June 21, 2017, RDA, LLC submitted an application to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) for permits to construct and operate a limestone mining and processing facility on a 968.4-acre tract located in the Earles Community. In March 2019, RDA was granted an Air Quality Synthetic Minor Construction Permit and other permits authorizing “dry mining” and processing of limestone.
According to the settlement agreement, the permit was revised to provide for “wet mining.” Wet mining will greatly reduce the amount of groundwater pumped from the site, and according to engineering experts, remove the risk of sinkholes, water pollution and drying up wells.
Other provisions include in the event a sinkhole forms at or near RDA site, DHEC shall be notified and RDA will modify monitoring of the water table and wetlands and maintain water quality data on its website for at least three years after it is posted. RDA also agrees to limit blasting to weekdays, which are not federal holidays and between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Within 24 hours of any scheduled blasting event on the mine site, RDA shall notify any resident or organization within a one-mile radius of the mine site.
A community fund will be established for the betterment of the local residents and community as well as a fund deposited in Williamsburg County’s General Fund account to be used to improve recreation areas near the project.
RDA will also establish a community representatives committee that will meet at least once a year with the mine operator to maintain open lines of communication and information sharing. The committee will consist of representatives from environmental organizations, the County and local residents.
Stan Barnett, an attorney who represents the county, is satisfied that the agreement will provide the community with protection from the risks threatened by the limestone quarry as originally proposed. “It is a major success for the people of the Earles Community and for Williamsburg County itself. It is a tribute to the determination of those people and of county leadership as well as our allies in the environmental community,” said Barnett in an email. “The important provisions of this agreement can be enforced in court, but I believe RDA has resolved to adhere to these terms and to work with the community and the county. In the final analysis, this result is the achievement of a strong people with a long history of fighting to protect themselves, their families and their homes. It has been the highest honor of my career to work alongside them.”
County Supervisor Tiffany Wright remains cautious. “Although I would not prefer to have mining operations in Williamsburg County, I am thankful that we have been able to come to some agreement regarding the operation of the mine,” she said. “I am hoping that as result of this agreement that none of our citizens are put in harms way. We will closely monitor the future company’s operations, so that they continue to adhere to the agreement.”