Belfast Telegraph

Protest against Sperrin gold mine set for £40,000 council conference

A protest is set to take place at a three-day event being staged by four of Northern Ireland's district councils over the suspected presence of gold exploration company Dalradian Resources at the event.

The Future Search event will take place between Wednesday, September 27 and Friday, September 29 at Glenavon House Hotel in Cookstown.

Greencastle Community Group - which is responsible for organising the protest - has questioned why the list of attendees at the conference has not been released despite the meeting being backed by public money.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, a spokesperson for the group said: "We believe this is a set up. They have refused to divulge that information. We think if this is something that is going to benefit the Sperrins they should be more than happy to tell the community."

It has also questioned whether economic development and planning are greater concerns for the conference than tourism.

The invitation sent to delegates, seen by the Belfast Telegraph, states that the "stakes are high" for the conference and that the "intense, interactive format offers a chance for significant planning breakthroughs".

The conference is being coordinated by Mid Ulster District Council, and held in conjunction with Causeway Coast and Glens District Council, Derry City and Strabane District Council, and Fermanagh and Omagh District Council.

The cost for staging the conference is estimated to be around £40,000, with £10,000 coming from each council.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Mid Ulster District Council said the event "will bring together a range of people, from the community, voluntary, public and private sectors, who have a stake in the future of the Sperrins".

A maximum of 80 delegates will be attending the event, with selection aimed at achieving balanced representation of location, age, interest, and gender.

"Participants include landowners and farmers, tourism bodies, community groups, public sector bodies and agencies, sports and outdoor recreation groups, environmental groups and companies with commercial interests. Naturally, organisations and groups invited to attend choose their own delegates," the council spokesperson said.

"The conference, as the name suggests, aims to focus on the future, establishing common ground and agreeing next steps towards the sustainable development of a valued and valuable natural asset."

Dalradian Resources has been contacted for comment.

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