Clogher Valley diamond mine could create 150 local jobs

An exploratory licence to look for diamonds in Tyrone and Fermanagh has been sought by Dublin-based Karelian Diamond Resources.
Gareth McKeown

FANCIFUL plans for a diamond mine in the west could create over a hundred local jobs for a rural community it has been claimed.

Just two weeks after Canadian firm Dalradian lodged an application for a new £750 million gold mine in Greencastle, it has emerged that an exploratory licence to look for diamonds in Tyrone and Fermanagh has been sought by Dublin-based Karelian Diamond Resources.

Company chairman, Professor Richard Conroy, who has previously held high hopes of mining gold in the north, believes there could be deposits of diamond in the Clogher Valley region and is seeking approval to explore the area.

If the precious rock is discovered he believes a diamond mine could generate 150 local jobs and lead to an investment of over £20 million.

Speaking to the Irish News Mr Conroy said the story of the famous Brookeborough diamond has inspired his latest crusade. In 1816 a diamond was discovered in the Colebrooke River at Brookeborough in Co Fermanagh, but to date no bedrock diamond source has been identified in Northern Ireland.

"Ireland, the geology of it generally is not somewhere you would think of for diamonds, you think about it for zinc, lead and for gold, but not diamonds. However one or two groups about 10 to 15 years ago did look at the area and took samples and although they didn't find any diamonds some of the results that they got would suggest the possibility that there might actually be what is know as kimberlite rocks or structures in the area. In order for diamonds to be present you have to have kimerblite, they're the sort of tubes that bring up diamonds from deep underneath the surface to the surface. They don't necessarily contain diamonds, but nonetheless just looking at the situation and having obviously an interest here, we thought this deserves a further serious look."

"The likelihood is we probably won't find any more, but nonetheless this was a diamond that seems to have genuinely found in this location and must have come from somewhere."

Karelian has received permission to build a diamond mine in Finland and Mr Conroy anticipates an investment of around $30 million (£22.4 million) and as many as 150 jobs being created.

"There's quite a few jobs actually, because it's really in many ways like a quarry in the work that you're doing. You'd probably be looking at something in the region of 100 to 150 jobs. It would be something similar (in Northern Ireland)," he said.

Although Mr Conroy admits it is "very unlikely" a diamond mine will ever come to pass in the Clogher Valley region, he is keen to explore all options, starting with an exploration of the area. He added that any proposed development would have a minimal impact on the local environment.

The company applied for a prospecting licence for Fermanagh and Tyrone to the Department for the Economy in October and a consultation process closed on November 10. A department spokesperson said: "All responses will now be analysed and considered with the outcome being made public in due course.”

Mid-Ulster Council has already expressed concerns about the application regarding the "environmental impacts associated with mineral prospecting".

The council has also objected to the granting of mineral prospecting rights within the Mid Ulster area and claims it causes "division in the community and conflict amongst neighbours".

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