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Opponents of Tyrone gold mine welcome public inquiry as they demand a fair hearing

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Dalradian wants to open a gold mine in Sperrins

Dalradian wants to open a gold mine in Sperrins

Dalradian wants to open a gold mine in Sperrins

Dalradian wants to open a gold mine in Sperrins

Dalradian wants to open a gold mine in Sperrins

Dalradian wants to open a gold mine in Sperrins

Orfhlaith Begley, Sinn Fein MP for West Tyrone

Orfhlaith Begley, Sinn Fein MP for West Tyrone

PA

Dalradian wants to open a gold mine in Sperrins

A public inquiry into a controversial gold mine planned for the Sperrin Mountains must listen carefully to the views of the local community, campaigners said.

The application for a mine by Canadian company Dalradian has received more than 36,600 objections.

Announcing the inquiry yesterday, Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said the project should have "robust scrutiny".

The announcement of the inquiry has been welcomed by opponents, politicians and the company itself.

Green Party West Tyrone representative Susan Glass said: "A public inquiry is a requirement for any industrial proposal of this scale with such serious potential impacts on the environment and public health, and we are rather concerned about how long it has taken for the department to arrive at this conclusion."

Dalradian believes there is up to £3bn worth of gold deposits in an area near Greencastle in Co Tyrone.

It said that the 25-year mine operation will ultimately support 1,000 jobs and provide a £750m boost to the economy.

However, environmentalists and residents are largely opposed to the plans. Many fear it will spoil the scenic beauty of the Sperrins and damage the countryside.

Ms Glass added: "The Green Party calls on the minister to reorient the department's engagement with this planning application to properly protect the public interest and to take account of the voices of thousands of objectors."

Dalradian had submitted a planning application for the mine in 2017.

However, two years later it dropped plans to build a processing plant that would use cyanide to extract gold from ore.

More than 40,000 representations have been submitted to officials, most of them opposing the plans.

Announcing the inquiry, Ms Mallon said the process thus far had been "complex".

She added that a public inquiry was the "fairest" way forward.

Orfhlaith Begley, Sinn Fein MP for West Tyrone, said: "We need to protect our natural heritage and environment for future generations and any economic development must be considered in that context."

West Tyrone SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan said it was right that the project should be open to scrutiny.

He said: "This is a particularly complicated project and more than 40,000 representations have been made to the Department for Infrastructure about the proposal. There are also concerns about the social and environmental impacts of this project.

"A public inquiry is the fairest and most thorough way to scrutinise an application of this complexity. This is the right call from the Infrastructure Minister."

Dalradian described the inquiry as a "key milestone".

It added: "To date, we have engaged in almost 100 meetings with the regulatory authorities to ensure that we have designed a world class operation to meet and exceed environmental regulations."

Belfast Telegraph