Tyrone residents voice fears over cyanide gold mine plan

Greencastle Mother and Toddler Group oppose plans to use cyanide at a proposed gold mining plant near their homes. Picture by Hugh Russell
Connla Young

FURTHER meetings are planned by residents in Co Tyrone amid concerns over the prospect of cyanide being used at a gold mine.

Dalradian Gold Ltd confirmed on Thursday night it intends to use the highly toxic chemical at a planned processing plant to extract gold from ore mined in the Sperrin Mountains.

News of the controversial plan has alarmed some local people and up to 200 attended a public meeting in Greencastle, near Omagh, on Tuesday night.

Around 500 people have also signed a petition opposing the plan.

Dalradian first moved into the area 2010 in search of gold in the hills between Greencastle and the village of Gortin, where it has an office.

The area has been identified as one of the top undeveloped gold deposits by grade in the world and the company has spoken of the potential for local employment.

Underground exploration began in 2014 and now the Canadian firm wants to locate a mine and processing plant within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Crockanboy Road, which is just outside Greencastle.

In recent years residents have voiced concern about the potential impact the mining project may have on the environment.

Cormac McAleer from the Save Our Sperrins campaign group said many people are opposed to the plan.

“Local people are waiting with some dread about the actual detail of the Dalradian proposal to be finalised,” he said.

“In the meantime people want to see the interests of the local population and environment come ahead of the profits of the Canadian (company).”

Mr McAleer described the proposed processing plant as a “monstrosity”.

He added that the concerns go beyond the potential use of cyanide and include the impact of dust and noise on people living in the district.

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

In recent weeks Dalradian has held several meetings with residents in Greecastle, Gortin and the hamlet of Rousky, which sits between the two, to outline their plans.

Under planning laws it is required to carry out consultation prior to submitting an application, which the firm expects to be lodged in the autumn.

Dalradian has also appointed a director of ‘stakeholder engagement’ and set up a Tyrone Fund to provide grants to organisations in the area.

A spokeswoman for the company defended the use of cyanide.

“Gold mining involves the use of cyanide which is the industry standard method for gold extraction worldwide, including in EU countries such as Finland,” she said.

“Cyanide is used in many other industrial processes such as: plastics‚ adhesives, fire retardants‚ cosmetics‚ pharmaceuticals‚ paints, computer electronics and food processing.

“It is one of the most highly regulated substances in the world.

“Every aspect of its use, transport, storage and destruction is tightly controlled by UK regulations.”

The spokeswoman added that “the processing plant will be low lying in design and we will minimise potential impacts to the surrounding river and to priority habitats and protected species”.

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