Omagh gold mine to reopen with £20 investment
AN Omagh gold mine is set to reopen two and a half years after prospectors downed tools - and will create 130 new jobs in the process.
The green light has been given to extending the Omagh Minerals mine at Cavanacaw outside Omagh.
Planning approval has been given to extend the existing mine site with permission to excavate gold, silver and lead for 15 years.
The company expects to spend up to £20 million while the 130 staff would contribute around £4m in salaries - just under £31,000 per job on average.
The site had been operated as an open pit until 2013.
President and CEO of Omagh Minerals' parent company Galantas Roland Phelps said: "This will create 130 direct jobs but the knock on effect would push that into the hundreds."
"The open pit had been back filled so we will put a concrete pipe into the back fill and then spiral underground from the sides of the open pit."
Although permission to mine for 15 years had been granted, Mr Phelps said he anticipated a "long life" for the mine.
"In the first phase, we expect to remove 30,000 tonnes of minerals each year and ramp up after that," he said,
The majority of material from the mine will be sent to Galantas in Canada, although some gold will be sold to another company for jewellery.
Galantas had previously marketed its own range of jewellery using gold from Cavanacaw but Mr Phelps said there were no plans to continue that process.
Mr Phelps said no timeline for the work had been finalised but said he expected it would take six months to make the mine operational again when construction commences.
"Our strategy is to establish the underground mine as soon as finance is available and look for further expansion of gold resources on the property, which has many un-drilled targets," he added.
"The robust results of the recent economic study, now with the positive planning determination, lead us to be confident about the establishment of a sound business based on the Omagh gold property. That business will draw upon the excellent engineering infrastructure and skilled, flexible labour pool around Omagh and create hundreds of local jobs, providing a real boost to the economy of Northern Ireland."
Environment minister Mark H Durkan said said the project would provide "a real boost in terms of jobs and investment for the Omagh area".
"The proposed operation by Omagh Minerals should help create numerous jobs and secure existing ones at the site. These and the wider benefits the development will bring will help the local economy," he said.
"Environmental protection will be of paramount importance. The company will be operating within strict compliance parameters. This combination will help achieve my vision of creating a stronger economy, a better environment."