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Sinn Féin minister shares Tyrone residents' cyanide concerns

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill pictured with residents from Greencastle, CoTyrone
Connla Young

A SINN Féin minister has said she shares concerns raised by Co Tyrone residents about plans to use cyanide to extract gold from the Sperrin Mountains.

Agriculture minister Michelle O’Neill was speaking after meeting with people in the Greencastle area yesterday.

The intervention comes after residents voiced objections to plans by Dalradian Gold for a mine and processing plant near their homes.

Cyanide is typically used to separate gold from ore but opponents say accidents have the potential to cause enormous damage to wildlife if the chemical enters waterways.

In recent weeks several sporting groups, including the Tyrone ladies GAA body, have said they will not take up any offer of cash from a special fund set up for communities by the Canadian gold firm.

Ms O’Neill visited the area at the request of community representatives.

“The company has confirmed that it intends to use cyanide at its processing plant to separate the gold from ore,” she said.

“As minister of agriculture I share the concerns of local residents regarding the potential negative impact that this process will have on farmers, rural dwellers and our environment."

Daladian first began exploring gold reserves in the area in 2010.

Cormac McAleer from the Save Our Sperrins group welcomed the minister’s comments but added that concerns were broader than the cyanide issue.

“We should not lose sight of the fact that even without cyanide there is a risk from heavy metals, arsenic, lead and cadmium," he said.

“Dust and the noise that is coming from the mine during explosions and people are breathing that in.”

He added there are also concerns about the impact mining will have on local water supplies.

Dalradian did not respond to requests for a comment.

It has insisted the use of cyanide is highly regulated and the proposed plant will minimise impacts on the environment and wildlife.

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