Concern over gold prospecting bid

The Sperrin Mountains.
The Sperrin Mountains.
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A gold company has applied for a license to carry out exploration in parts of Derry.

Concerns have been raised over the potential impact of any such work on the landscape and the people who live in the areas of interest in the Dungiven and Claudy areas.

A letter is to be sent from Derry & Strabane’s Planning Committee to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment outlining concerns over prospecting.

Department officials had written to the council informing them that Dalradian Gold Ltd had applied for Mineral Prospecting Rights in respect of an area across Counties Derry and Tyrone,

Dalradian are a listed gold development and exploration company, whose stated aim is to advance on their high-grade gold deposit in the north.

In a report brought before the Council’s Planning Committee on Wednesday, local councillors were told that the government department “have advised that consideration is at present being given to the issue of a prospecting license over this area for a period of six years”.

The report states: “Before coming to a decision on the matter, the department is required to serve on Derry City and Strabane District Council notice of its intention to grant the license and take into account any representations which are made to it within one month.”

The report elaborates that the areas of interest in the Claudy and Dungiven areas span across three councils: Causeway Coast & Glens, Derry & Strabane and Mid-Ulster.

Maura Fox, Head of Planning at Derry & Strabane Council , in a draft letter responding to the Department, highlighted environmental protections and constraints in place across the region.

She also states that the main settlements within the area are Claudy, with a population of 1,340; Donemana with 586 residents; Park with 520; and Killaloo with 92 people. It further states that part of the area subject to the license lies within the Sperrin Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, while the landscape between Binevenagh Ridge and the Foyle Valley is criss-crossed with important water ways.

“Under the circumstances of the above we would suggest it is essential to consult with the Department of the Environmnent, Natural Heritage and Shared Environmental Services,” Ms Fox writes.

She also said that any concerns from local communities in respect of the potential impact on the landscape are given adequate consideration.

Chairman of the Planning Committee, Sinn Fein Councillor Kieran McGuire said the response from the council should be stronger, and warned that this issue can be “very, very divisive” among communities.

Sinn Fein Councillor Dan Kelly said he would have concerns about how such a process rolled out, as the regulations meant the department decided on licenses and the council were just being informed as a matter of course.

Colr. Kelly said there were other examples where the local community and the wider area gained very little from such exploration. “None of the benefit comes back to the local district,” he said, adding: “I would have concerns that mineral resources are just kind of being shipped off.”

SDLP Councillor Gus Hastings added that he thought it was a “disgrace” people on high could dictate what happens at a local level in such instances. “The Sperrins is such a beautiful place, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”, he said.