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Public inquiry ordered into gold mine project proposed for Tyrone beauty spot

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Artist's impression of the Dalradian gold mine project in the Sperrins

Artist's impression of the Dalradian gold mine project in the Sperrins

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon

Artist's impression of the Dalradian gold mine project in the Sperrins

A contentious gold mine proposed for Co Tyrone will be the subject of a public inquiry.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said the planning application for the Dalradian mine project should have "robust scrutiny".

The Canadian company wants to open the mine in the Sperrins and claims there is up to £3bn worth of gold deposits in the area near Greencastle.

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

However, the project has been bitterly opposed by environmentalists and residents of the picturesque area, who fear it will spoil the scenic beauty of the Sperrins and damage the countryside.

Opponents had also argued against the potential use of cyanide on the site. Dalradian has since undertaken not to use it, but opposition continues.

Announcing the public inquiry, Ms Mallon acknowledged it was a "complex" project.

She said: "The planning application for the Dalradian gold mine project at Greencastle, Co Tyrone, was submitted to the department in November 2017.

"Revised proposals including the complete removal of cyanide from any part of the application process were received in September 2019.

"The application has proved to be complex and in excess of 40,000 representations have now been submitted to my department about the mine proposal.

"The planning application includes an assessment of the potential socio-economic and environmental impacts by a wide range of expert consultees.

"Before any decision is taken I consider it important to have a public inquiry and report which has independently considered the views of stakeholders, including the local community and other government departments, and which will robustly scrutinise the information provided by all interested parties.

"Once I am satisfied that all necessary detail and consultee responses have been provided I will move to call the public inquiry to allow for robust scrutiny of the application in a public forum."

Dalradian said Ms Mallon's announcement was an important step.

"We welcome the news that the Infrastructure Minister plans to call a public inquiry into our planning application for an underground gold, silver and copper mine in Co Tyrone. We believe this is a key milestone in the planning process of a regionally significant project which will be a major economic opportunity for Northern Ireland," it said.

"The inquiry will provide a further forum in which to engage on the facts of the project and to hear from all stakeholders.

"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."

Dalradian said the project will see the creation of around 1,000 "direct and indirect" jobs during the mine's 20 to 25-year life.

The company added: "To date, we have invested over £130m in Northern Ireland since 2009 and believe our project supports rural communities and regional development and is a commitment that will be delivered regardless of Brexit.

"The construction phase alone will generate 300 jobs with a capital spend of £175 million and will leverage the skills and experience of local building contractors."

Belfast Telegraph