The Edge Road Mine won’t face any enforcement action for removing stockpiled material and operating a mini-excavator in the corner of the mine site without a valid permit, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
In early March, DHEC said it had not yet decided whether to take any punitive action against the mine for removing stockpiled material after revoking the mine’s permit. DHEC revoked the permit after the Coastal Conservation League pointed out the state agency had let some of its mining regulations expire and therefore had issued that permit and dozens of others in error.
After the permit was revoked, the mine continued to remove stockpiled material, said Edge Road Mine consultant Craig Kennedy. He explained that a representative from DHEC had told the mine after the permit was revoked that the material could be removed, but was later informed that DHEC considered the activity to be mining. The mine stopped removing the stockpiled material at that point.
“DHEC is not considering taking punitive action against the landowners for the removal of stockpiled material during Oct. 11 – Nov. 19,” DHEC spokeswoman Laura Renwick said in an email. “DHEC staff allowed the removal of stockpiled material during that time frame. When DHEC became aware of this activity on Nov. 19, staff instructed the facility to cease, and an inspection confirmed that the activity had stopped; therefore no punitive action is warranted.”
The Coastal Conservation League also shot a video on Feb. 17 of a mini-excavator working in a corner of the mine, and asserted the activity constituted mining. Kennedy said the excavator was only being used as part of an employee interview process and as practice for a planned pool construction. DHEC in a letter to CCL’s attorney said the work constituted grading, not mining.
“The grading observed in the February video resulted in a shallow rectangular area of disturbance, and no material was observed leaving the area or being loaded into trucks,” wrote DHEC Mining and Reclamation Section Manager Joe Koon. “Therefore, per the Department’s thorough review of all submittals, along with the activity observed during the site inspection on March 4 th, the Department has determined that the on-site activities depicted in both the drone and video footage, the photographs and seen during the Department’s site visit is grading, not mining.”
A DHEC mine operation permit inspection report from March 4 affirmed the operator’s explanation for the excavator.
“According to the operator, the site was used for job preparation involving pool repair and construction, and the video recorded the preparation,” the DHEC inspection report stated. “The review of the video and inspection of the area showed that only grading activity has occurred. No enforcement action will be taken at this time.”
The mine is currently applying for another permit to expand the 4.8-acre mine to 24 acres and up to 50 feet in depth.
DHEC is now in the process of “scheduling and making the logistical preparations for a public hearing,” Renwick said. “A 30-day notice will be provided to all interested persons prior to the hearing date so they can plan to take part if they wish. The public comment period will remain open and will be extended 15 days after the date of the public hearing.”
DHEC staff will make a decision whether to approve the new permit after taking the comments into consideration. Renwick said there’s no specific time frame for when a decision will be made.
If the permit is granted, the mine operation is expect to last through 2027 per the reclamation schedule, Renwick said, noting that the permit doesn’t expire and the operation timeline could be adjusted.
The mine’s reclamation plan calls for the mine owners to turn the site into a pond and donate the land back to Horry County or the Department of Natural Resources for public use.