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Horry County Council makes final decision on controversial Red Bluff mine

jlee@thesunnews.com

A mining company that has sued Horry County over a proposed mine again appeared in front of county council to ask for a mining permit for 35 acres at the intersection of Highway 905 and Red Bluff Road.

The request was denied after dozens of residents showed up in opposition of the mine. After the vote, the crowd erupted in applause.

"I was born and raised in that community within a mile-and-a-half of that proposed mine," said resident Chuck Dozier. "I know and all of my neighbors know what we’re in for if this thing is approved."

"The wishes of the Red Bluff community is that we do not want this project in our community," he said. "We’re asking that this council move ahead and enforce for us, that wish."

In November of 2017, the mining company sued the county after councilors denied a mining permit for the company. Red Bluff argued that the county had devalued the property by rezoning it from high bulk retail to the less profitable commercial agriculture without granting the mining permit.

The company said in the lawsuit that it only applied for the rezoning with the understanding that a mining permit would be issued.

On the morning before a council meeting on Oct. 17, Mike Wooten of DDC Engineers — the company representing Red Bluff — called deputy director of planning David Schwerd and asked him to remove the mining resolution from the agenda to give the company more time.

The suit says that Red Bluff relied on that communication, but that night, council voted to deny the request anyway due to resident concerns.

On Tuesday, the request was again brought before council.

In a letter, Wooten said the company had addressed resident's concerns regarding traffic, hours of operation and environmental contamination.

Wooten said the mine would limit its operating hours to daylight hours only Monday through Friday, and would limit truck traffic through the site to 55 trips per day.

He said that under the previous retail zoning, traffic would equate to about 1,000 trips per day and the oil and grease from shoppers' cars would exceed the amount left by the machinery during the 5-year life of the mine. The mining project would not use chemicals and the company would provide potable water to any resident nearby whose well may be affected by mining, he said.

Addressing the council Tuesday, Wooten pointed out that there were many other mines in the five miles surrounding the Red Bluff site.

"There’s an awful lot of mines," Wooten said, adding that other mines in the area have been turned into lakes and helped with property values.

"If this is tearing up the fabric of the community, where’s the outrage at these other projects?" he asked the council Tuesday.

That argument wasn't enough for councilors, who faced a room full of residents who didn't want the mine there.

"I've got lots of inputs from residents down there," said councilor Johnny Vaught, who added that he spent a lot of time there as a kid. " It's like a second home to me. I think we're remissed if we don't listen to these people and turn down this project."

Christian Boschult, 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian

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