Public inquiry into £750m Tyrone gold mine could be heard this year

An image of the proposed gold mine at Curraghinalt in Co Tyrone, which could create hundreds of new jobs
Gareth McKeown in Toronto

THE head of the Canadian company behind plans for a £750 million gold mine in Co Tyrone hopes a public inquiry into the proposal will begin later this year.

Speaking at the PDAC (Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada) conference in Toronto, one of the leading mining conferences in the world, Patrick Anderson, CEO of Dalradian Resources said he hopes to create Europe's second largest gold mine at Curraghinalt in west Tyrone. He told audience members the mine, if approved, will produce 160,000 ounces of gold a year and could rival famous Canadian mines in the Abitibi region of Ontario and Quebec.

Dalradian Resources lodged plans for the Tyrone mine last November and has said $1 billion (£750 million) is to be spent building and operating the mine over the lifetime of the project (25 years). The company has also stated that over a thousand jobs could be created through direct employment, construction and in sectors such as hospitality as a result of the development.

The plans have faced opposition however, with local residents expressing concerns over the potential environmental impact of the mine, including the use of cyanide to remove the metal from the ore.

One of these local activists expressed his concerns directly at the PDAC conference on Monday and questioned what the company has done to reassure public fears over the mine.

Speaking to the Irish News an American investor who has plunged over $30m(Canadian) dollars into the Tyrone project to date, sought to alleviate concerns.

Sean Roosen, one of the directors at Osisko Gold Royalties and who has been involved in 80 million ounces of gold discoveries, believes the mine can bring prosperity to the region.

"We always leave a place better than we find it and we want to make sure that if we're involved in a project that we have the ability to carry out that core philosophy. So for us we don't invest if we don't believe we can execute that strategy."

Mr Roosen referenced the example of the Malartic gold mine in Canada as a successful model, with $195m spent on infrastructure in the town, including the building of a new public school, over 100 new homes, as well as the creation of the biggest amphitheatre in the region. The investment transformed the town from a place with 45 per cent unemployment to one where almost half residents now work in the mine due to the creation of 800 full-time jobs.

"The net benefits of a project like this are years and years of employment and it's also the transfer of knowledge, because a lot of the people who we trained at Malartic now work around the world. We're talking about a very small footprint, for an awful lot of wealth creation and a lot of sustainable incomes."

"If Northern Ireland loses jobs due to Brexit this is going to be an even more important project," he added.

Mr Anderson would like to see a public inquiry for the Curraghinalt project "as soon as possible" and hopes it will begin later this year. He believes the project has huge potential and revealed to The Irish News that the amount of gold in the area is now assessed to be "well north of five million ounces", an increase on the 4.4 million ounces previously estimated.

"We know there's more gold there, we've only really kicked the tip of the iceberg," Mr Anderson added.

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