South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

‘We’ve got to have some restrictions’: Despite opposition, Horry County Council moves looser mining regulations forward
November 17th, 2020

By Chris Spiker, WBTW

CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) – Horry County Council moved new mining rules forward that some are concerned could hurt their neighborhoods.

Council moved one step closer Tuesday night to giving up control over approving certain mines.

“More thought and planning will be going into where a bed-and-breakfast can operate than a five-, 50-, or 500-acre mine,” said Riley Egger, who’s the land, water and wildlife project manager for the Coastal Conservation League.

Council passed second reading of three changes to mining rules. Each change passed in a 9-3 vote.

Those opposed to the mining rule changes say they aren’t against mining, but want to make sure mines are placed in the right locations.

“How they do it, when they do it, all of the controls involved in it, we want this body to keep control of that,” said Chuck Dozier.

Horry County has 52 active mines, according to a map from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). Limestone and various types of sand are extracted from the mines.

Under the proposed rule changes, mines of less than five acres would be allowed, as long as they’re 25 feet from a property line or waterway. Language would also be changed in the Imagine 2040 comprehensive plan to reflect the county’s reduced role in mining regulation. The county would also shift regulations entirely to the state.

That means only DHEC would approve mines.

“Because community concerns on location, traffic and other quality of life concerns are outside of DHEC’s authority, you would be leaving these ungoverned and there would be no restriction on where the mines go,” said Lauren Milton, who’s a staff attorney for the South Carolina Environmental Law Project.

This comes after a company trying to start a mine in the Red Bluff community sued the county after council voted against the mine, even though DHEC approved it and it was eventually built.

“It seems to me like — I want you all to consider — that you may be being bluffed by the attorneys for the mining industry,” said Amelia Wood.

Danny Hardee, whose district includes the Red Bluff community, voted against the changes.

“We’ve got to have some restrictions,” said Hardee. “That Red Bluff mine — there’s a church across the road, there’s a church beside it, a housing development, and they’ve got to listen to that.”

Council members in favor of changing the rules say the county will still have to approve any mines not on land zoned for mining.

“That, to me, is exactly the same thing, other than a different process as requiring a mining permit,” said Johnny Vaught, a council member representing the Forestbrook community. “We’re just tagging it as requiring a rezoning.”

Council must pass these changes one more time before they officially go into effect.

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