Environment minister Mark H Durkan has rejected proposals for exploratory drilling for shale gas in Co Fermanagh.
Australian mining firm Tamboran notified the Department of the Environment of their intention to drill a core of rock from Cleggan Quarry, Belcoo.
The company had wanted the work to be carried out under current permitted development rights and without the need for full planning permission as part of their ongoing exploration into the viability of extracting gas by means of hydraulic fracturing (fracking).
Tamboran issued a statement saying they were “concerned” at the minister’s decision.
Minister Durkan said that following “careful consideration” of Tamboran’s proposal to drill a core of rock from the quarry near Belcoo he had “concluded that this is Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) development requiring full planning permission and that permitted development rights do not apply”.
“I have concerns that this is an existing quarry where unauthorised extraction has taken place,” he said.
“I believe there is insufficient information to establish what environmental impacts may have already arisen as a result of these unauthorised activities. Therefore, it is not possible to assess the environmental impact of the drilling.”
He said he was proceeding on a “precautionary principle” and added: “I have therefore concluded this is EIA development requiring full planning permission with an accompanying Environmental Statement and current permitted development rights do not apply.” A spokesperson for Tamboran Resources said: “Tamboran Resources is deeply concerned with the announcement made by Environment Minister Mark H Durkan.
“The company is currently reviewing its position and will release a further statement in due course.”
Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew has said the environment minister has made the correct decision in denying Tamboran a licence to carry out test drilling.
She said: “The decision to deny Tamboran to begin deep bore test drilling in Belcoo, Fermanagh is the correct decision giving the clear opposition to fracking in the area. There has been universal support in opposition to fracking since Tamboran applied to begin test drilling.
“We congratulate all those in Belcoo who stood firm against this project. The decision is the correct one.”