Canadian mining company Dalradian insists it has “consistently supported calls” for a public inquiry into its planning application to build an underground gold and silver mine in County Tyrone.
The firm was reacting to a call by SDLP leader Colum Eastwood demanding an immediate moratorium on precious mining “until the concerns of environmentalists, people living in close proximity to proposed sites and the broader community are addressed.”
Mr Eastwood was reaffirming the party’s call for a public inquiry into the plans for gold and silver mining in the Sperrins.
He said: “In Government, when others wanted to exploit our natural resources for reckless profiteering, the SDLP took a stand and introduced a moratorium on fracking until we could be assured by scientific evidence that there would be no lasting impact on our environment or on local communities. Even today, there is no such compelling evidential case.
“At our most recent party conference, SDLP delegates from across the North unanimously backed an update to that policy which opposes strip mining in the Sperrins.
“I have met with communities in the Sperrins which would be uniquely affected by precious mineral mining operations. I was impressed by their campaign and share many of their concerns around the damage we’re doing to our environment.
“I have not been assured that the process for extracting precious minerals from sites across Northern Ireland is free from risk to our environment, public health and local communities.
“The SDLP is therefore calling for a further moratorium on these mining operations and proposals until we can all be satisfied about its safety.”
A spokesperson for Dalradian said they believe that a public inquiry into a specific application offers the best forum for all of the issues raised in relation to the development.
“We are confident that our detailed and comprehensive planning application will satisfy the rigorous regulatory environment that exists in Northern Ireland, when considered on an independent, impartial and informed basis,” he said.
“Dalradian has a proven track record of job creation, an investment of $200m in the last decade and support for local projects. We have created local employment in the area for the past ten years and have funded multiple conservation and environmental projects across the region. If approved, the mine would directly create 350 jobs and more than 600 indirect and induced jobs for decades to come. We believe that Northern Ireland can join other countries such as Sweden, Finland and Spain in having a safe and modern mining sector.”