Grave concerns over goldmine in the Sperrins

Hundreds attend a meeting of locals opposed to the creation of a gold mine in the Sperrin Mountains
Hundreds attend a meeting of locals opposed to the creation of a gold mine in the Sperrin Mountains

Residents of a small Sperrins town have held a series of public meetings in an attempt to rally support for their fight against a proposed gold mine.

Canadian mining company Dalradian has been exploring whether there is gold beneath Greencastle in county Tyrone for some time.

And it seems it was worthwhile, as the company has now applied to dig a fully fledged mine under the Sperrins.

But many in Greencastle are not happy as they fear it will ruin the countryside around their quaint mountain town, affect protected freshwater pearl mussels in nearby Owenkillew River and pollute the water table.

They are also concerned about the use of cyanide to separate the gold from other rocks.

But Dalradian, which local man Cormac McAleer said has been waging a charm offensive in the area for some time, said they have held public consultations on the gold mine, and that 71% of the 608 houses they surveyed are in favour of it.

A figure Cormac disagrees with, as he said “if they did that survey today it would be very different”.

Campaigners against the mine said they also have little faith in Department of the Environment [DOE] after it reneged on two pollution clauses in Dalradian’s first application. A decision DOE has defended: “The applicant sought permission for non-compliance with two conditions [25&26] which were attached to planning permission K/2013/0072/F. In determining this application it was considered that the subject conditions could be removed.”

Keen to get locals on board, Dalradian Gold told the Mail it commenced further public consultations on January 22 and in keeping with the “area of outstanding natural beauty” will put up “natural screening” around the mine and put waste rock back into the ground.

“The plant will be low lying in design and we will minimise potential impacts to the surrounding river and to priority habitats and protected species,” they said, adding: “Any processing or treatment will be regulated under a PPC permit – Pollution, Prevention and Control. Water use, treatment and discharge will be in line with the requirements of the statutory agencies.”

But, despite such assurances, Friends of the Earth has concerns and has hit out at DOE for not using the “precautionary principle” in a document outlining 10 fundamental concerns in relation to its processing of Dalradian’s first planning application.

Director James Orr said: “We are very concerned about this proposal. It can seem overwhelming to a local community to know what to do in these circumstances.

“The government has a duty to protect the environment. Time-and-time again we find these environmental laws are not applied.”

Dalradian Gold’s view

With £326,817 of funding from InvestNI, Dalradian has promised to deliver 19 new jobs as well as training for those employed as part of its gold mining project. The company said it has already “invested £50m in the project to date” and that it employs 55 people directly, 54% of whom are from Tyrone.

“We understand some local people have genuine concerns about a mine opening in the area and that is why we want to be transparent and meet with people to address those concerns,” a spokesperson said.