* Expects to raise gold resource at flagship project
* To graduate to Toronto Stock Exchange this October
By Euan Rocha
TORONTO, July 16 (Reuters) - Romarco Minerals R.V expects to significantly increase its estimate of the size of the gold resource at its flagship Haile project in South Carolina this year, the Canadian exploration company's CEO said on Friday.
The TSX Venture-listed company also expects to graduate to a listing on the senior Toronto Stock Exchange later this year, a move that will allow Romarco to attract investments from fund managers in North America and Europe that are restricted from investing in Venture-listed companies.
"We are pretty much ready to move to the main board. There are just a few procedures and protocols that we have to put in place at the corporate level to make the transition to the main board," Chief Executive Diane Garrett told Reuters in an telephone interview.
"We have been told we will probably be on (the TSX) in October. The application is in and we definitely qualify."
The company, with a market capitalization of about C$820 million ($780 million), was one of the best performers on the Venture Exchange in 2009 and its shares have risen more than 90 percent in the last 12 months.
Garrett, a former analyst and fund manager at U.S. Global Investors, said the company plans to significantly expand its estimate of the resource base at Haile this year and will issue an updated interim resource report in October.
Romarco acquired the Haile mine from Kinross Gold Corp in 2007. The mine was closed during the low gold price environment of the late 1990s.
The company hopes to complete its feasibility study at the site in early 2011, with construction likely to begin in mid-2011.
The Haile mine located in Lancaster County, South Carolina, is expected to begin producing gold by the end of 2012. The Carolinas were the focus of the first gold rush in the United States, before the California gold rush began in the late 1840s.
Garrett, who took the reins at Nevada-based Romarco back in 2002, expects the company to continue drilling and expanding its resources at the site for the next five years.
"Even though we are three years into this, we are still finding new zones, higher grade material. It's a long way from over from an exploration standpoint," Garrett said. "We think it is going to be one of the larger gold districts in the U.S."
$1=$1.05 Canadian Reporting by Euan Rocha; editing by Peter Galloway