The Department for the Economy has given a Canadian gold mining company permission to extend its search for gold in this region into Mid Ulster.
But the ministry, which makes decisions on mineral prospecting licences, after the Crown Estates Commission passes them, went against the advice of council planners in Mid Ulster when they took the decision.
Dalradian Gold - the company that made the application - is already planning to mine what it calls one of the world’s “best undeveloped gold mines” near Greencastle in west Tyrone.
However, many locals are opposed to the operation amid concerns around the use of cyanide and the impact they feel it will have on their countryside and lifestyles.
Dalradian, which stands to make billions from the mine, says its work will bring new jobs to the area.
When asked for a break down of the 400 jobs they said it will create, a spokesperson for the company said it currently employs 44 people and 19 contractors, and that at the height of the mine’s development there were 127 workers on site.
They said the 400 figure includes “jobs (that) are created indirectly to support the operations”.
The company said it has “invested £85 million to take the project to its current phase” and that it has engaged with 500 locals, funded a Fresh Water Pearl Mussel - a protected species the mine has the potential to impact - project and donated £220,000 to the community.
The company’s own estimates suggest there are 4.4m ounces of gold in the Greencastle area - which at this week’s average rate of £1,000 per ounce, Dalradian stands to reap £4.4billion.
Tax payers will see a return of just five per cent of that figure through the Crown Estate.
Asked why they had ignored council objections in granting the licence to explore for gold in Mid Ulster, a Department for the Economy spokesperson said: “The department has not ignored objections. Prior to awarding the licences, the department fully considered all representations made, including those made by councils.
“Having done so, the department determined in favour of awarding the licences but has ensured that guidance to reflect the matters highlighted during consultation, issued with the licences to the licensee.
“That guidance has included reference to the need for the licensee to engage appropriately with the planning section of relevant councils.”
A spokesperson for Mid Ulster Council added: “The issue of a licence for exploration is a matter for the Department of the Economy.
“However, under planning legislation, Dalradian is required to notify the Council, in writing, giving details of the location of the proposed development, target minerals, details of the plant and operation and anticipated timescale. To date, Mid Ulster District Council has not received any notification.”