SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MLA has called for an immediate moratorium on precious mineral mining until the concerns of environmentalists, people living in close proximity to proposed sites and the broader community are addressed.
The Foyle MLA has reaffirmed the party’s call for a public inquiry into the plans for gold and silver mining in the Sperrins.
He said: “In Government, when others wanted to exploit our natural resources for reckless profiteering, the SDLP took a stand and introduced a moratorium on fracking until we could be assured by scientific evidence that there would be no lasting impact on our environment or on local communities. Even today, there is no such compelling evidential case.
“At our most recent party conference, SDLP delegates from across the North unanimously backed an update to that policy which opposes strip mining in the Sperrins. It is our duty, as political leaders and custodians of our natural environment, to leave our stunning landscapes in a better state than we found them for future generations to enjoy. But, more importantly, our first responsibility is to protect the health of local people and local wildlife.
“I have met with communities in the Sperrins which would be uniquely affected by precious mineral mining operations. I was impressed by their campaign and share many of their concerns around the damage we’re doing to our environment.
“I have not been assured that the process for extracting precious minerals from sites across Northern Ireland is free from risk to our environment, public health and local communities. The SDLP is therefore calling for a further moratorium on these mining operations and proposals until we can all be satisfied about its safety.
“We’ve backed calls for a public inquiry into the proposed mine near Greencastle. A forum through which local people can state their opposition and we can test the evidential basis for applications of this nature is the only way forward.”