Gold mine planning application ‘should be subject to an independent public inquiry’ says minister

Gold bars. Picture by Andrzej Barabasz. Wikimedia Creative Commons
Gold bars. Picture by Andrzej Barabasz. Wikimedia Creative Commons

Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard has said the application for a goldmine in Greencastle, Co Tyrone should be subject to a public inquiry.

Responding to a request from his party colleague, West Tyrone MLA Declan McAleer, he said: “If and when a planning application is submitted, I am of the view that it should be subject to an independent public inquiry before any final decision is taken.”

Meanwhile Derry & Strabane Council is to this week consider a motion from independent councillor Paul Gallagher calling on Minister Hazzard to stop the current consultation process, and “to investigate the issues arising from these proposed gold mining operations and the earlier permissions bearing in mind both the risks and the very sensitive environment”.

He also suggests that if the motion is passed that it should be “circulated to the other councils connected linked to the Foyle River basin and to councils involved in the Sperrins”.

Save Our Sperrins chair Cormac McAleer has welcomed the minister’s view on a public inquiry.

He said: “Such an inquiry is essential in order to address with appropriate seriousness the risks to water, air, health and well-being and the many other issues regarding the negative impacts on farming, fishing, tourism, amenity, community, culture and rural living as well as financial costs to the public purse and devaluation of properties in the vicinity.

“The lack of independent inhouse expertise within the department has been a glaring shortcoming that has created a very problematic dependence on the mining company’s agents.

“When the minister’s proposals are clarified, Save Our Sperrins (SOS) will be keen to assist with agreeing terms of reference for the Inquiry, which will need to be informed by clarification of the totality of Mr Anderson’s proposals for his ‘mine camp’ and a review of the lessons from Dalradian’s earlier gold exploration application and planning approval.

“SOS is hopeful that a public inquiry will give genuine consideration to the threats gold mining presents not just for the Sperrins AONB but for the Foyle River system and the wider hinterland including Counties Tyrone and Derry where Dalradian has prospecting licences from the Crown Estate.”