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Sperrins gold mine heads off to inquiry

Words: Roger Milne
Sperrin Mountains | Shutterstock_96740506

Infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon has fired the starting gun for the consideration of the province’s biggest planning application ever mooted – the contentious proposals to develop a gold mine in the Sperrin Mountains.

Canada-based Dalradian Gold wants approval for the scheme, earmarked for a site at Greencastle in County Tyrone.

The project has divided local communities and triggered thousands of objections on health and environmental grounds.

In June last year the minister announced that the project would be the subject of an independent public inquiry. Now she has formally requested the Planning Appeals Commission to set up a public hearing.

The minister said: “I am now satisfied that sufficient detail, consultee responses and representations have been provided to allow for robust scrutiny of the application in a public forum and that we should move as soon as practicable to the public inquiry phase in processing this application.

“I have therefore directed that my officials formally request a public inquiry to be held by the commission.”

Mallon said this would “consider a number of related applications including the gold mine minerals planning application and the two associated powerline applications”. A legal challenge over the scheme is scheduled to be heard in the High Court next month.

The planning application for the mine was originally submitted to the Department for Infrastructure in November 2017.

The application was revised in 2019; the main changes included the relocation underground of the primary crusher building with an extended conveyor system, provision of new ore sorting machinery, a modification of the haul route, removal of cyanide from any part of the processing of the ore and changes to extraction and processing quantities. The amended proposal also results in the transport of concentrated material off-site for export rather than final on-site processing.

Image credit | Shutterstock