Challenge to County Tyrone gold mine plan rejected
A judge has rejected a challenge to proposals to build a controversial gold mine in the Sperrin Mountains.
Canadian firm Dalradian has applied for permission to develop the mine near Greencastle in County Tyrone.
But the development was opposed by some residents, who challenged aspects of the planning process in the courts.
The Department for Infrastructure has welcomed Friday's judicial review judgement.
- Gold mine consultation was not a 'tickbox exercise'
- Gold mine plans 'not oven ready' for consultation
Residents from Greencastle, Rouskey and Gortin had challenged the department's decision to consider a planning application for the gold mine.
They claimed a mandatory community consultation ahead of the submission of the planning application for the mine was deeply flawed.
The residents' lawyers argued that Dalradian's proposals for operating a mine in the Sperrin Mountains were not "oven ready" when presented to the public.
But a judge dismissed their bid for a judicial review and held that planning laws did not require the developer to publish and consult on a finalised scheme at that stage.
He said: "Neither a completed project concept nor a highly advanced one is required by the statute or the associated common law principles."
The court was told this month that there had been 10,000 objections to the mine plans but that 3,000 letters of support had also been received.
Dalradian has claimed the mine could tap into £3bn in gold and provide a £750m boost to the Northern Ireland economy.
The judge held that the planning applicant was only required to conduct a public engagement exercise, which gives the community "a fair and reasonable opportunity to express its views relating to the general terms of the project then in contemplation".
'No stone unturned'
After the ruling, Dalradian said it was looking forward to "our planning application proceeding through to the public inquiry stage".
"We will continue to work constructively with the local community and to further develop our relationships with our near neighbours."
Martin Conway from the Greencastle, Rouskey, Gortin Concerned Community Group said its members were "disappointed yet not deterred" by the ruling.
"One thing is clear - we are determined to protect this area and its people, its future generations and its future conservation," he added.
"We will leave no stone unturned until we achieve this objective."
The Department for Infrastructure said the judgement confirmed that it "was correct" in accepting that the consultation carried out by Dalradian was "adequate and satisfied all relevant legal and procedural steps".
"As a result of the judgement the department will continue to process the minerals planning application," it added.