Sponsored Features

How Tyrone mine will use latest technology to protect local area

Landscape: Dalradian’s current exploration site includes a water treatment facility and rehabilitated waste rock store, designed to blend in with the surrounding farms

Peter McKenna is a proud Tyrone man. When he speaks about his homeplace, it’s clear he has a huge respect for the area and its people.

I’ve great love and attachment for my place,” he beams. “There is a wonderful culture, history and social history in this area.

 

Peter is the community relations manager for Dalradian, a US-owned mineral exploration company that currently has a planning application with the Department for Infrastructure to establish an underground gold, silver and copper mining operation in Co Tyrone.

We caught up with him to find out more about how the project will benefit the local people and operate to high environmental standards.

A boost for the local economy and vital role in the green economy

According to Peter, this new mine could bring 1,000 jobs and prosperity to the region. In fact, it is estimated that is will generate £21m in salaries and £46m in supply chain expenditure every single year. A £15 million training programme is planned over three years to help local people upskill for this new industry. Transferrable skills from farming and construction mean many people from the area are well-suited for a mining career.

Operations: Dalradian has a 5-person environmental team that monitors water and other parameters and ensures full compliance with strict regulations

“I grew up in The Sperrins and am old enough to remember times when the population was higher,” Peter states. “I’ve seen plenty of emigration and rural decline. It’s everywhere, but I have seen The Sperrins suffer particularly badly.

“It excites me to think that there can be a major employer back in the area making use of the land. The Sperrins has always been a place that was lived in and used. The landscape that’s there is entirely man-made. It used to be a forest and now it’s an agricultural place. We even made the bogs when you think about it!”

"Projects like ours could help our local area contribute to the next big transition we all have to make - towards a green or decarbonised economy. That means shifting away from traditional sources of energy such as coal, gas and oil to alternative, renewable sources - wind, solar, geothermal and battery storage – all of which rely on using a wide variety of metals and minerals which will need to be mined.

Protecting the landscape

Peter and the team at Dalradian know the area well. While the company has been in Tyrone since 2009, many staff members like Peter grew up in the locality.

"The Sperrins have always accommodated the local people," he states. "The prospective mine is a tiny area when you think of the size of The Sperrins. It’s underground, narrow vein mining which means that it can have a small surface footprint. That’s important because it minimises the visual impact of the project. We will be able to continue to live in a green and pleasant land.

"All the technology that we use is 21st century. All the important things like air quality, water treatment and rehabilitation of the site were carefully considered in the design of the project. We will make sure that the environment is properly managed and protected. That’s important to all the local workers in the company and of course to the wider population."

Making the environment a top priority

Dalradian have made the local environment a top priority in their operation, even in the exploration phase.

"We decided several years ago that we have to be carbon neutral, with net zero carbon emissions," Peter states. We’re going to construct an operation that will minimise emissions on an ongoing basis and offset the carbon produced as we go."

Alongside this, they will also be undertaking water protection (Dalradian’s operation water will be sourced onsite, recycled and treated to strict environmental quality standards before release), site rehabilitation during and after operations and innovative processing that minimises impact.

Protection: Water used during operations will be sourced onsite, recycled and treated to the highest quality standards

"It’s exciting to be actually involved in something that is going to be part of the new green world that we must make for our children as opposed to just talking about it. We have appointed a sustainability manager within the company and we’re building on that foundation to create a culture where everything we do considers sustainability and carbon neutrality."

Helping local people to stay in the community

According to Peter, this mine will benefit the local community, especially if they take the opportunity to get involved in shaping the project.

"We have to take the opportunities that present themselves and use them to serve the community,” he states. “A good example is the former Lisheen zinc mine in Tipperary. The community helped to shape investment in projects that have provided a strong legacy in education, sport, infrastructure industry and the arts. As part of closure and remediation of the mine and in consultation with the community, part of the site was returned to its former use, farming, but a new bio-economy campus was also created to make use of the waste products of the dairy industry."

"When you look at the size of The Sperrins, there are hundreds of thousands of acres. Because it will be an underground mine, that is where most of the work will take place. Our entire footprint is going to be the size of an average farm and that includes everything, our buildings, our roadway in, our processing plant, storage, and the entrance to the tunnel underground. It’s exciting!"

Opportunity: Dalradian’s mine will benefit the community through investment in local projects. This builds on the positive legacy of modern mines such as Lisheen, Co Tipperary (pictured is the Moyne Athletic Club which was improved and expanded with funding from Lisheen)

The Community Fund

Dalradian don’t just want to benefit the community by providing jobs, business opportunities and environmental protection, they also want to support local initiatives. They have already supported over 600 local organisations through their donations.

“The community fund has been in existence in one shape or other since 2015 and came about because of local people approaching the company for help,” Peter states. "We support a variety of organisations like football clubs, social clubs, older residents’ clubs, creches, environmental groups, church choirs, rugby clubs and Gaelic clubs.

"Very often these organisations are maintained by volunteers. You can volunteer time, work and energy but you can’t volunteer insurance or the rent bill, or the football jerseys. That’s where we come in. That’s one of the really nice parts of my job."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Sponsored Features