Fresh concerns raised about Sperrin Mountains gold plan

Concerns have been raised over plans to mine for minerals in the Slieve Gallion area of south Derry. Picture by Seamus Diamond Photography.
Connla Young

A campaign group in Co Derry has called for a public inquiry into the activities of mineral mining companies in the Sperrin Mountains.

The call by Protect Slieve Gallion (PSG) came as it was claimed that a Stormont department has been actively encouraging multi-national firms to come to the north.

The campaign group was set up earlier this year to highlight concerns about plans to mine for gold and other minerals in the Slieve Gallion area of the Sperrin Mountains.

Slieve Gallion has a distinctive peak that dominates parts of south Derry and east Tyrone.

Australian-owned Walkabout Resources has a joint venture agreement with Koza UK, which was originally granted the licence to prospect for gold, silver, cobalt and copper in the area.

In a recent interview the Walkabout Resources executive chairman Trevor Benson said that Geographical Survey Northern Ireland (GSNI) - which is attached to the Department for the Economy (DfE) - had been “encouraging groups like ourselves to look at the potential of Northern Ireland in terms of mineral resource”.

A residents' group voiced surprise that foreign mining firms are being encouraged into the north.

A spokesman for PSG last night said they did not consent to the sharing of data collected by GSNI.

“This is why it is crucial that the public inquiry is set up immediately and all mining applications, prospecting licences active and proposed are stopped immediately.”

The group has also raised concern about potential health risks caused by mining.

A spokeswoman for the department said: "GSNI, funded by DfE, develops datasets that can be used by many sectors one of which is the mineral exploration sector to assess the prospectivity for exploration for key metals and minerals in NI.

"Neither DfE nor GSNI offer any financial incentives to exploration companies to come to Northern Ireland.”

Similar concerns have been raised by mining opponents over plans to by Canadian firm Dalradian Gold to develop a mine in Greencastle, Co Tyrone, which is around 14 miles away. Among concerns are fears about plans to use cyanide to extract gold from ore mined locally.

The company however has said will be heavily regulated and does not pose a risk to the public or the environment.

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