There should be a public enquiry into plans for a gold mine in Co Tyrone, Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard has said.
Local residents have raised concerns about the use of cyanide at the Greencastle site as part of the process.
No planning application has yet been submitted.
Mr Hazzard said: "However, if and when a planning application is submitted, I am of the view that it should be subject to an independent public inquiry before any final decision is taken."
Northern Ireland has the seventh richest undeveloped seam of gold in the world, the company behind the project, Dalradian, has said. It hopes to submit an application for full planning permission in the near future and has already injected more than £56m into the project. It believes the excavation can create many jobs in constructing and operating the site.
Cyanide is used in part of the processing system but Dalradian has said it will be heavily regulated and does not pose a risk to the public or the environment. A diluted cyanide solution will split gold particles from crushed ore.