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WAR OF WORDS OVER GOLDMINE

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Local protest group to raise concerns with Department of Infrastructure

A WAR of words has erupted over extending gold mining prospecting licences in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area.

The Canadian gold mining company. Dalradian which has operating bases in Omagh, Gortin and Curraghinalt, just outside Rouskey, was invited by the council to give a presentation in the Guildhall last Wednesday regarding their application to the Department for the Economy for prospecting licences that fall within the council's area.

"The purpose of these applications is to continue the prospecting activities that we have been carrying out for the past six years, which include mapping, geophysical surveys, stream sediment and soil sampling. For more information about our prospecting work completed and proposed in these areas, please refer to our presentation on the council website," said a spoklesman this week.

"In addition, there has been a great deal of interest in our work at the Curraghinalt gold deposit, which falls within the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council area. The time allotted at the council meeting did not allow us to go into more detail about all of the questions asked regarding Curraghinalt. As such, an offer to host a visit to our office in Omagh and to the application site was extended to the Derry City and Strabane District Council," he said.

The spokesman added there would be a wealth of information available soon when the planning application, including a full environmental statement, was submitted.

"This regionally significant planning application, to build an underground gold mine at Curraghinalt, will be submitted to the Department for Infrastructure (DfI). The application will contain further details about the proposed project - what it will look like, jobs to be created during construction and operation and environmental protections."

He added:"More than 750 people have toured our existing exploration project, underground tunnels and water treatment plant since July 2016. We welcome those who want to understand our proposals better to come and have a tour or meet with us for more information. We would also be pleased to return and present more information to the council."

At the meeting Dalradian received support from the DUP's Alderman David Ramsey from Newbuildings. He said he believed a lot of rumours about the potential damage to the environment had been quashed.

He said: "As a council we need to be balanced and take into consideration our constituents who have concerns and to take into consideration future investment and employment. No one in the council chamber is an expert on mining or exploration so it is important that we know what we are looking at so we can allay fears over rumours.

"It is about being balanced and responsible and the company were very clear at allaying the fear as far as I was concerned."

He added: "They encouraged me to think more positively about it and not accept some of the scaremongering that some people are engaging in."

However the group opposed to the gold mine development, Save Our Sperrins (SOS), were not impressed by the pitch to the council.

Spokesman, Cormac McAleer, said Dalradian's "carefully prepared slide presentation" failed to answer the questions raised by several Derry City and Strabane District councillors.

He claimed the company told the council committee that he could only speak about the application for extended prospecting licences and could not answer other questions.

"Local people are familiar with Dalradian repeatedly failing to answer their concerns or questions," said Mr McAleer.

Far from giving helpful answers or allaying serious concerns Dalradian have aroused more concern by not allowing the public to see the Environment Impact document - that was ready in December 2016 - and by attempting to get planning approval for their toxic proposal by stealth.

"Their Discharge Consent Application must only be examined as part of the total planning application for the overall project for a gold mining and cyanide plant and not as a separate project.

"Furthermore by revealing that the Canadian firm has had 44 meetings this year with DFI to smooth the way for their planning application and to address issues had caused consternation as to what is going on."

Mr McAleer added the SOS group would be raising these matters with DfI.

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