Vanderbilt Minerals LLC Dixie Clay Division is planning to more than triple its mining footprint in Aiken County.
A legal advertisement, which ran earlier this month in Aiken Standard, detailed that the Randall Mine, owned by the Vanderbilt Minerals LLC Dixie Clay Division, has applied to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to modify its operating permit, and increase its area from approximately 97.2 acres to 650.7 acres.
The mine is known for kaolin clay and is located in Bath. The clay is used in a variety of ways, including in pharmaceuticals, paint, paper and ceramics.
Dixie Clay has extracted kaolin clay from the area since 1856; it became solely owned by the Vanderbilt organization in 1945.
Jay Stallings, plant manager at the Dixie Clay Division, said the term “mine expansion” may be a little inexact; the land included in the permit request is actually owned by Dixie Clay and has been for several years.
“While new lands that are currently owned by Dixie Clay will be brought into the mine permit, if the mine permit modification requested is approved by DHEC, the rate of mining or methods for mining will not change,” Stallings said. “Dixie Clay is finishing up mining and reclamation in one tract of land; as this area has been mined out, it became necessary to update the State Mine Permit to include lands that have been owned by Dixie Clay for a number of years into our mine permit area.”
The area does surround residential subdivisions, individual homes and wooded areas.
Gem Lakes resident Sheila Cline owns 73 acres that border Town Creek, close to where the mine is located, and part of her property touches the tip of the mine property.
Cline said she has specific concerns about maintaining water quality in Town Creek and its quantity.
“This resource is vibrant with wildlife and vegetation,” Cline said. “Any impact of the significant increase of the mine could negatively affect our property value ... Our concern is for the safety and quality of life for the residents affected by this process.”
Stallings said the mine does intend to use buffers, vegetation and visual screens of existing vegetation to minimize any impacts to surrounding land. Techniques, he said, which have proved effective for more than 40 years.
“To address some concerns you mentioned, water quality is monitored under the NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit,” Stallings said. “We also take necessary measures to preserve air quality and things of that nature. Noise is addressed by using berms and the pit itself provides protection from excessive noise.”
The mine’s modification request is currently under DHEC’s review.
Currently, Stallings said he has not received any calls expressing concerns, but he is willing to discuss the mine’s plans with any and every one.
Stallings can be reached at 803-593-2592.
Maayan Schechter is the local government reporter with Aiken Standard. Follow her on Twitter @MaayanSchechter.