There's more gold in Co Tyrone mine than the Canadians thought
Hundreds of millions of pounds worth of gold could be excavated from a mine in Co Tyrone every year, according to a Canadian exploration company.
Dalradian Resources has been granted planning approval to extend an underground exploration project for gold and common metals near Gortin, helping to create 50 jobs.
In an end of year statement published last week, Dalradian said that an average of 145,000 ounces of gold could be removed from the proposed underground mine at Curraghinalt every year.
The proposal is a temporary exploration project and involves the extension of the existing 700m tunnel to 2,100m over three years.
The aim is to establish the feasibility of a larger mining operation in the area.
Capital expenditure on the project is estimated at £117m.
The development, on what Dalradian calls its "most advanced European project," will support 30 full-time jobs in the site set-up stage and a further 25 full-time jobs in the tunnelling stage.
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan, said: "This project represents further significant inward investment by the internationally recognised Canadian company Dalradian Resources Inc and opens up the exciting possibility of a major long term mining operation."
Patrick Anderson, Dalradian's chief executive, said that the hiring and tendering process has already begun.
"We appreciate the support we've received for the next phase of our project from all levels of government as well as our local communities," he said.
"We look forward to continuing to advance Curraghinalt, which showed positive results in our preliminary economic assessment last year.
"This next phase of underground development and bulk sampling will allow us to further prove up the economics of the project."
Omagh District Council voted in favour of the project on December 2 and the company hopes to be awarding surface and underground contracts by Toronto-based Dalradian in the first three months of 2014.
The application received 92 letters of support and three petitions in support and 39 letters objecting to the proposal.
Michael Hannaway from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, welcomed the approval, calling it "a positive announcement for Tyrone and for Northern Ireland as a whole" and welcoming the Environment Minister's assurances on environmental compliance.
Mark H Durkan added: "Companies like Dalradian Resources are working to unearth gold discoveries and in the process are bringing jobs and investment to the region. I very much welcome this.
"Over 50 jobs will be created. These and the wider benefits the development will bring will help the local economy.
"Environmental protection will be of paramount importance and the company will be operating within very strict compliance parameters.
"This combination will help achieve my vision of creating a stronger economy and a better environment."