Gold mine plans 'not oven-ready' for consultation

By Conor Macauley
BBC NI Agriculture & Environment Correspondent

image copyrightDalradian Resources
image captionDalradian Gold claims there are £3bn worth of deposits in the Sperrin mountains

A goldmining company could not have consulted properly with the public as its plans were not fully worked-up when put on display, a court has heard.

Dalradian set out its plans at a two-day event in November 2016.

Information on the working of the proposed mine in the Sperrin Mountains, and its potential impact was on show.

Residents from the villages of Greencastle, Rousky and Gortin in County Tyrone contend that the consultation was not adequate.

They have gone to court to challenge the Department for Infrastructure's decision to accept its validity and progress the company's planning application.

The department has a duty to ensure that companies planning regionally-significant developments consult properly with the communities where they are based, before the planning application is submitted.

image copyrightDalradian
image captionDalradian says there are designing a safe project, meeting and exceeding all regulations

A lawyer for the residents said the two-day event did not have any information about the size of the proposal, which it is now known includes plans for 144 hectares of above-ground development in an designated protected landscape.

He said it also did not provide relevant detail on proposals for above-ground disposal of waste rock for 25 years, which would see the rock crushed and built into a long, tapered mound that would then be planted over with vegetation.

Gregory Jones QC said what had been set out was a "conceptual drawing" showing a cross-section of a typical waste rock facility which did not contain any information about height or scale.

He said the waste rock plan was a particularly "controversial" subject with the local community.

image captionMembers of Greencastle, Rouskey and Gortin Concerned Citizens pictured outside court

Mr Jones said the public consultation event gave the impression that a planning application was only a month away.

It was November 2017 before the planning application was formally submitted to the Department for Infrastructure.

Mr Jones said it was clear from the information presented that evening that issues such as the environmental impact of the mine were still being worked out and fed into the scheme design.

He said when it was presented to the public for consideration the plan was "far from oven-ready" and that called into question the validity of the community consultation.

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