Lawyers called in to mediate in row over security costs at Co Tyrone goldmine site

Residents say picturesque areas of the Sperrins could be spoiled if the goldmine site goes ahead. Picture by Cliff Donaldson

LAWYERS have been called in as part of a dispute over security costs at a goldmine site in Co Tyrone.

The PSNI and Canadian multinational Dalradian are at loggerheads over the issue, and each side has now said it will be seeking legal advice.

In August The Irish News revealed that policing the controversial goldmine had cost almost £500,000 in less than a year.

The PSNI is providing services to the site in the Sperrin Mountains, near the villages of Greencastle and Gortin.

Some people who live in the area are bitterly opposed to the mine and plans to use cyanide at a proposed processing plant because they fear it will damage their health and the environment.

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

Police have billed Dalradian for almost £400,000 for escorting explosives but the sum remains unpaid.

Chief Constable George Hamilton said: "To date a total of £397,000 has been invoiced, however Dalradian are in disagreement with the chief constable's position on cost recovery.

"Both parties are seeking further legal advice and this matter is with PSNI's legal counsel. No monies have been received to date."

A spokeswoman for Dalradian Gold said: "There is a legal requirement in Northern Ireland for the PSNI to assess the need to escort the transportation of explosives. The form and manner of the escort is determined solely by the PSNI.

"We understand no other mining or quarrying operation in Northern Ireland pays for this service.

"Total investment into the project over the lifetime of the mine is expected to be in excess of hundreds of millions of pounds, creating hundreds of jobs in the process."

Northern Ireland has the seventh richest undeveloped seam of gold in the world, the company claims.

It hopes to submit an application for full planning permission before the end of the year and has already injected more than £56 million into the project.

Gordon Best, spokesman for the Quarry Products Association Northern Ireland, said that the principle of companies being charged for transport and delivery of explosives to mines is "a very troubling prospect for our industry."

He said: "Sites operating close to the border and therefore in possibly higher risk areas could become unviable and uncompetitive in comparison to their southern counterparts who are not subject to the same escort charges."

Last week The Irish News reported that Dalradian was disputing claims by a Catholic priest that a Mass Rock is on land under their control.

Fr John Forbes, who is parish priest in Badoney, revealed that he had written to Dalradian on behalf of himself and Greencastle parish priest Fr Edward Gallagher asking for access to say Mass at the rock near Greencastle.

To date permission has not been granted.

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