By Catawba Riverkeeper Brandon Jones
There are two mining operations working to secure permits in the watershed: Piedmont Lithium in Gaston County (NC) and Luck Stone in Fairfield County (SC). Both operations are open pit and will impact local creeks and wetlands. Our concerns for the facilities are primarily focused on stormwater discharges, wastewater discharges, and groundwater drawdown.
Piedmont Lithium – Gaston County, NC
The Piedmont Lithium proposed mine is in north western Gaston County on Beaverdam Creek, a tributary of the South Fork River. The proposed quarry is on the Carolina Tin-Spodumene Belt, the largest hard rock lithium deposit in the United States. Increased demand for lithium in electric vehicles has made local extraction economically attractive for the first time since the 1980s. They have received a federal permit to fill over 5,000 linear ft of streams and impact almost 8 acres of wetlands. In order to mine the property, they will also need a state permit and county rezoning. The company is expected to file the state application before the end of August and expects the review to take 6-9 months. There will be a public meeting and hearing for the application. The timeline for a county rezoning is less certain. On July 20th Piedmont Lithium presented the site plan to County Commissioners. About 30 residents and Catawba Riverkeeper voiced their concerns and over 200 were present. On August 6th Gaston County Commissioners voted unanimously to pass a 60-day moratorium on mining while they further investigate environmental and residential concerns.
Luck Stone – Fairfield County, SC
The Luck Stone Fairfield I-77 Granite Quarry is located at the headwaters of Dutchman’s Creek, a tributary of Lake Wateree. The proposed granite mine will impact over 16,000 ft of creeks. They are currently applying for their state permit and will also need a federal permit and county rezoning. SC DHEC held a public meeting in July and Catawba Riverkeeper presented our concerns at the August 5th hearing along with concerned residents, the SC Environmental Law Project, and the SC Rural Waters Association. Additional comments are welcome and will be accept by DHEC until August 20th. Should the state decide to issue a permit, there will be additional opportunities to comment as Luck seeks a federal permit.