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Co Tyrone man loses High Court challenge over goldmine drilling

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A judge dismissed his case after confirming that boreholes on the land had caused no environmental harm

A judge dismissed his case after confirming that boreholes on the land had caused no environmental harm

A judge dismissed his case after confirming that boreholes on the land had caused no environmental harm

A Co Tyrone man has lost a High Court challenge over drilling work at a neighbouring goldmine.

William Donnelly was seeking to judicially review a local authority's failure to take enforcement action for an alleged breach of planning permission on the site at Cavanacaw, near Omagh.

He claimed Fermanagh and Omagh District Council's position represented a betrayal of its responsibility to protect blanket bog in the area.

A judge dismissed his case after confirming that boreholes on the land had caused no environmental harm.

However, Mr Justice Humphreys also said: "It should be a matter of grave public concern that the mining works at this site have been characterised by repeated breaches of planning control which have resulted in no enforcement action taken by the relevant authorities."

Mining has been carried out at the site by Omagh Minerals, a subsidiary of Canadian firm Galantas Gold Corporation.

In 2015 the then Department for the Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan, gave the green light for extended underground work on the basis of compliance with strict environmental conditions.

Those terms included a ban on activity in adjacent bog areas to be fenced off and excluded.

Two years ago Mr Donnelly took an unsuccessful case against the extended planning permission.

He returned to court again to mount a fresh challenge over the Council's failure to take enforcement action over boreholes drilled in the blanket bog area in 2015.

Representing himself, Mr Donnelly contended its position was disproportionate and unreasonable.

Despite accepting there was evidence of a breach of planning control, the Council had decided against issuing an enforcement notice due to the passage of time and because no harm was caused to the land.

Mr Justice Humphreys ruled it was entitled to reach that conclusion.

"Given that the unlawful drilling took place over four years ago, and has not occurred since, and the lack of any physical damage to be remedied, it is difficult to see what purpose an enforcement notice would serve," he said.

"This is not one of the rare cases in which the court should intervene in relation to the failure to take enforcement action."

Although he rejected the legal challenge, the judge noted historic breaches of planning controls.

He added: "It would seem that, despite a well-known history of flouting of planning requirements, first the Department and now the Council rely on complaints being raised by members of public before considering whether or not to take enforcement action."

Belfast Telegraph