The expected merger of an Australian mining company with a corporation that is digging an industrial-scale gold mine in South Carolina was approved Monday.
In an afternoon news release, OceanaGold and Romarco Minerals Inc., of Toronto, announced that shareholders of both companies had signed off on the acquisition by OceanaGold.
OceanaGold, of Melbourne, Australia, is acquiring Romarco and retaining 51 percent interest in the new mining corporation. Most Romarco employees would remain with OceanaGold, the companies have said. The transaction was initially reported to be valued at about $600 million.
OceanaGold’s acquisition of Romarco would close Thursday pending approval of a Canadian court, which is expected.
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The deal has been touted as a way to make for a stronger corporation as gold prices continue to remain unsettled. The Lancaster County gold mine launched by Romarco would be the largest open-pit operation in South Carolina history and the biggest in the eastern United States, according to plans. The Haile Gold Mine being acquired by OceanaGold would contain pits of up to 840 feet deep near the town of Kershaw.
Bringing “the Haile Gold Mine through construction and into production will further diversify our global production profile and cement OceanaGold as the low cost gold producer globally,’’ OceanaGold chief executive officer Mick Wilkes said in the release.
Critics of the mine, primarily conservation groups, had predicted that Romarco would sell out once it had obtained environmental permits for the mining site. The last of those permits was approved late last year -- which Wilkes said was a factor in his company’s interest in Romarco.
“OceanaGold shares Romarco's philosophy to social responsibility, which is of utmost importance to ourselves in consideration of the relationships our company has formed with the great communities and stakeholders surrounding the Haile gold mine and Lancaster County,’’ Romarco chief executive Diane Garrett said in the release.
OceanaGold is a publicly traded company that operates mines in New Zealand and the Philippines. Romarco is a former gold exploration company involved in its first mining venture.
As part of its plan to locate a mine in Lancaster County, Romarco protected nearly 5,000 acres of land from development in Lancaster and Richland counties, including Cook’s Mountain on the Wateree River. The Lancaster County mine sits atop gold that at one time was valued at up to $2 billion.