Supporters of a Canadian-controlled goldmining firm seeking fresh mineral exploration licences in the Sperrins talked up the jobs-boosting potential of the operation, while opponents inside and outside the Guildhall this week raised concerns over the possible detrimental environmental effects.
Protestors gathered outside Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Environment and Regeneration Committee meeting on Wednesday ahead of a briefing by Brian Kelly, the managing director of Dalradian Gold Ltd. (DGL), who had been invited to address councillors on the firm’s contentious prospecting plans in the council southern highlands.
Inside, Mr. Kelly told the committee how the approval of its applications for fresh licences for the Sawel and Dart mountain area and for Newtownstewart East, would help sustain 53 Dalradian employees and an equal number of secondary contractors.
He insisted Dalradian was committed to the most stringent regulatory and legal standards in respect of planning, environmental, water discharge and pollution control permissions and said the company had invested over $1million in its operations locally to date.
DUP Alderman David Ramsey said he understood there were some public confidence issues but added that a balance needed to be struck between jobs and community concerns. Ald. Ramsey said there had been a lot of talk about “poisoning and destruction” but insisted the committee was inexpert in these matters, which would be better dealt with by the appropriate regulatory authorities.
Independent councillor Paul Gallagher said he had major concerns over the lack of a “strategic environmental assessment” and “Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA)”.
He also referred to highly publicised mining disasters across the world, including in Columbia, Romania, Papua New Guinea, Angola and the USA. Colr. Gallagher said he was further concerns over the goldminers application to use cyanide at one of its processing plants in Greencastle.
Fellow independent Gary Donnelly said he believed the mining operation was about “greed and profit” and that it breached the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, which allocates the ownership of Ireland to the people of Ireland.
Colr. Warren Robinson, meanwhile, raised concerns over the potential contamination of the Foyle river system.
Mr. Kelly said he understood there was a range of divergent views. He said that while cyanide was mentioned in one of Dalradian’s applications, the chemical has not been used by the company in the area. He said the disasters referred to by Colr. Gallagher had occurred as a result of the storage of goldmine tailings in wet ponds, which has been specifically designed out of Dalradian’s goldmine plans.
In respect of the potential contamination of local river systems, Mr. Kelly said Dalradian’s operations were designed to withstand a one in 1,000 year flooding event [The floods we experienced recently were deemed to have been a 1/50 or 1/100 year event].