The chairperson of the mining company granted five prospecting licences for Inishowen has said they will be “very sensitive to the area.”
It was announced on Tuesday that Connemara Mining acquired five new prospecting licences covering 187 sq km on the peninsula.
This area contains the former Glentogher Lead Silver mine and the company will focus on 16 targeted areas.
Prior to the granting of the licences, a number of local groups had submitted objections, stating they would be detrimental to the environment.
Speaking to the ‘Journal,’ John Teeling, chairperson, said a two-person team of ‘pure gold geologists’ would come to Inishowen next week. “walk the land” and take samples from soil, rock and rivers.
He said this would then be analysed to see if the level of gold was commercial.
He added: “We’d need to be looking at something fairly high grade for it to be commercially viable.”
Mr Teeling said the team would be looking for gold and also some base metals and if initial results were promising, would undertake some “small drilling” later this year.
Mr Teeling said: “It’s like looking for needle in a hay field. We mightn’t even get to the next stage. I would like to have the problem of saying: “Let’s go drill more extensively.” We have never got to that stage in Ireland yet.”
The prospecting licences do not permit mining and Mr Teeling said that if they get past initial stages, an underground gold mine would be a “long way off.”
He said: “There couldn’t be anything like that in Inishowen until at least 2022. We’d need to be very sensitive to the area and there’d be major environmental considerations. It would also cost millions and investors would need to be brought in.”
He added he “understood” the concerns of local people about any effect on the environment and stated they worked under strict regulations.
Councillor Paul Canning has expressed fears for the local water and environment and concerns it could lead to fracking.
When asked how any prospecting or future exploration would benefit the Inishowen community, Mr Teeling said if they got to a stage where they were to develop further they would “be hiring a few local people in the short-term initially and go on from there.”
Under the Minerals Development Act, prospecting licensees are permitted to enter people’s land for the purposes of exploration and “take and remove reasonable quantities of minerals.”
Mr Teeling said they would “respect people’s land” and entering on to it is “all done with agreement,”
And if gold is found on someone’s land?
“It belongs to the State,” said Mr Teeling.
“We’d have to apply to the State and then make an agreement with the landowner. But that’s a long way away.”