The Brewer Gold Mine was mined intermittently for over 170 years with commercial gold production beginning in 1828, though there are tales of Native Americans trading gold acquired at or near the site much earlier. The original Brewer pit dates from the 1850s or 1860s. The historic mine included pits and tunnels, and required enormous amounts of manual labor.
The most recent and largest period of mining was from 1987 to 1995, when the Brewer Gold Company mined over 12,000,000 tons of ore and waste rock from three open pits (Brewer, B-6, and Northwest Trend) at the Site. The Brewer pit was originally excavated to 330 feet elevation and the B-6 pit was excavated to a depth of about 340 ft. The company operated the property as an open pit, heap leach operation. Gold ore was mined crushed, agglomerated with cement, and placed on permanent, lined leach pads. The ore was sprayed with a dilute cyanide solution that leached gold and carried it down to collection ponds. The gold-laden solution was pumped to a treatment system for gold recovery and the barren cyanide solution was refortified and returned to the leach heaps. Waste rock was stockpiled on the south side of the pit when mining ceased. The operation consisted of three pits; six leach heaps; one waste rock dump area; six process, sediment retention, and water storage ponds; and numerous shops, offices, and process facilities.
At the end of operations in 1995, Brewer Gold Company closed and began reclamation of the mine following a plan outlined under an order issued by the State of South Carolina. Reclamation activities included dewatering and backfilling the Brewer and B-6 pits, constructing a temporary water treatment plant to handle the water removed from the pits, installing a geosynthetic liner over the pit area, rinsing leach heaps, dismantling unnecessary facilities, and constructing a passive treatment system to deal with contaminated seepage over the long term. Pit dewatering removed an estimated 120 million gallons of acidic water and was completed in 1999. The water was treated in a temporary wastewater treatment plant and discharged to Little Fork Creek under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit issued by the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control (the "Department"). However, as closure activities were ongoing, acid rock drainage began to flow from seeps located a few hundred feet from Little Fork Creek. This rendered the planned passive treatment system (an anoxic limestone drain) completely ineffective. The plan to demolish and place the water treatment plant in the pit during closure was abandoned when the plant was needed to treat the contaminated seepage.
In 1999, Brewer Gold Company informed the Department that it intended to abandon the site. The Department obtained a court-issued injunction to stop Brewer Gold Company from abandoning the site, but Brewer Gold Company proceeded with abandonment of the property and associated wastewater treatment operations as it had intended. Since such time, there has been no further mining at the site.