Canadian firm Dalradian is permitted to sell the Tyrone gold it recently shipped to the US state of Washington to be smelted down and has not broken any terms of its licence.
Northern Ireland’s Department for Economy said the shipping and sale of the gold was a matter for the Crown Estate - an independent company set up to manage sovereign assets such as gold, silver and the UK seabed.
And a spokesperson for the Crown Estate said: “Under the terms of the bulk sampling lease Dalradian has permission to sell any gold they recover from the 15,000 tonnes of material they have shipped to the US.”
They added: “I can confirm that the bulk sampling exercise is complete and no further ore will be extracted without a new full mining permission.”
As part of Dalradian’s exploration licence, a spokesperson from Department for the Economy also said: “Mineral prospecting licences granted by the department under The Minerals Development Act (Northern Ireland) 1969 permit licensees to make borings, sink pits, remove water from old workings and take and remove reasonable quantities of any such material for analysis, test, trial or experiment.”
Asked what a “reasonable quantity” was they said: “The department considers that 15,000 tonnes is not an unreasonable quantity of ore given the nature of the ore and the testing required.
“As this is principally gold ore, which vests in the Crown, the treatment of any sale would be a matter for the Crown Estate.”
The contract between the Crown Estate and Dalradian and what it might make the taxpayer, is still unclear because of commercial confidentiality.