Belfast Telegraph

Bid to halt work at Tyrone goldmine dismissed by court

By Alan Erwiin

A High Court judge in Northern Ireland has dismissed a legal bid to stop underground work at a Co Tyrone goldmine.

Local man William Donnelly was challenging a former Department for the Environment minister's decision to approve an extension to the operation at Cavanacaw, near Omagh.

But Madam Justice McBride rejected all arguments raised, including claims that retrospective permission was granted for the removal of waste rock without an adequate environmental impact assessment.

She said: "I am satisfied that the Department acted legally, rationally and followed proper procedures."

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

In 2015 the then Minister, Mark H Durkan, gave the green light to the extended project.

Planning permission was granted for underground work at the existing mine on the basis of compliance with strict environmental conditions.

At the time Mr Durkan said these would include progressive restoration of the above ground site to ensure the protection and enhancement of habitat over time.

But Mr Donnelly claimed there was an unauthorised removal of large quantities of rock.

Part of his case centred on the environmental impact and possible acidity of this waste rock.

Points were also raised about the size of the site being either 60 hectares or 81 hectares.

According to Mr Donnelly that raised the possibility that the Minister was "misinformed or even confused as to the scale of the project being approved".

Lawyers for the Department countered by insisting work was already covered by previous planning approval obtained more than 20 years ago.

No regulations were breached during the decision-making process, they argued.

Referring to the removal of rock from the site, counsel said as soon as the Department was made aware it exercised enforcement powers to ensure the activity ceased.

The court also heard that part of the construction work under scrutiny was given the green light under a previous planning decision back in 1995.

Although Madam Justice McBride accepted there was unlawful past removal of ore and rock, she rejected claims these were retrospectively approved under the 2015 permission.

The judge accepted Mr Donnelly has been frustrated in the past by breaches of planning permission.

But dismissing his legal challenge, she ruled: "I am, however, satisfied that in respect of the impugned decision the Department was assiduous in complying with the duties imposed upon it under the various regulations."

Following her verdict Mr Donnelly indicated he may take his case further.

He told the judge: "I would like to make you aware that I have to properly consider this decision and may wish to appeal it."

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