Infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon to request public inquiry into plan to build a gold mine in Co Tyrone

A plan to establish a gold mine in Co Tyrone is to be examined by an inquiry.

Monday, 20th September 2021, 6:12 am
Inside the tunnels a Dalradian site in Co Tyrone

Stormont’s Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said she will formally request that the Planning Appeals Commission hold a public inquiry into the Dalradian Gold Mine project.

Ms Mallon said: “In June 2020 I announced that the Dalradian Gold Mine project at Greencastle, Co Tyrone would be the subject of an independent public inquiry.

“I am now satisfied that sufficient detail, consultee responses and representations have been provided to allow for robust scrutiny of the application in a public forum and that we should move as soon as practicable to the public inquiry phase in processing this application.

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“I have therefore directed that my officials formally request a public inquiry to be held by the commission.”

The SDLP minister added: “The inquiry will consider a number of related applications including the gold mine minerals planning application and the two associated powerline applications. It will also consider the proposed abandonment of the Crockanboy Road, known locally as the ‘Green Road’.”

Ms Mallon said that the handling of the public inquiry phase will be a matter for the commission which will include providing all parties with the arrangements.

“Once the inquiry is completed I will carefully consider the findings of the Inquiry before reaching a decision,” she said.

The planning application was submitted to the department in November 2017.

The mine application has proved to be complex and controversial and 40,000+ representations have now been submitted about it.

The planning application includes an assessment by a wide range of expertise of in-depth information on the potential socio-economic and environmental impacts.

The application was revised in 2019 with the main changes including the relocation underground of the primary crusher building with an extended conveyor system, provision of new ore sorting machinery, a modification of the haul route, removal of cyanide from any part of the processing of the ore and changes to extraction and processing quantities. The amended proposal also results in the transport of concentrated material off-site for export rather than final on-site processing.

In addition to the main gold mine planning application the Department called in two powerline applications from Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Derry and Strabane District Council in December 2019. These applications in combination provide the electricity supply to the proposed mine.

The powerline extends for some 37 kilometres (23 miles) across the two council areas, mostly through the Sperrin Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The department considers that, as they are inextricably linked to the gold mine project, they should also form part of the public inquiry.

The proposed mine surface development would require the abandonment of a rural road Crockanboy Road aka the ‘Green Road’, at the request of the applicant, Dalradian Gold Ltd., under the Roads (NI) Order 1993.

A road abandonment process is distinct from a planning application and operates under differing legislation. The abandonment is necessary to enable the surface mine operations to proceed and the planning application includes provision for the construction of an alternative road.

Significant objections have been received to the abandonment proposal and the department says that it considers that they should also form part of the public inquiry with the planning applications.

The mine project also requires separate consent for water discharge and abstraction and there are currently four consent/abstraction licence applications with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) for determination.

NIEA are responsible for regulating water discharges and water abstractions that may impact upon the natural environment. NIEA determine applications to discharge in accordance with the Water (NI) Order 1999. Applications for water abstractions are determined in accordance with the Water Abstraction and Impoundment (Licensing) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006.

It is anticipated that the four consent/abstraction licence applications will be submitted by NIEA to the PAC and that they will also be considered as part of the inquiry process.

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