Home Business Inside the battle to stop new gold mine in the 'wild west of Europe'

Inside the battle to stop new gold mine in the 'wild west of Europe'

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The Save our Sperrins group has set up camp in two caravans to stop the development by the US company Dalradian.
Senior Ireland correspondent
Saturday 3 June 2023 06:31, UK
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Protesters opposed to a gold mine in the Sperrin Mountains of County Tyrone have vowed to „lie on the road” to stop machinery if it arrives.
They have set up camp in two caravans and their campaign has become the catalyst for those demanding tougher environmental regulation in Northern Ireland.
Fidelma O’Kane, from the Save our Sperrins group, claimed the mining company had applied to remove „two-and-a-half million gallons of water” from the peatland every day.
„Peatland is a major carbon store but on top of that, if they are allowed to abstract water from the peatland around here, that will destroy the aquifers, the rivers, the streams, etc”, she said.
But Dalradian, the US company that has been prospecting on the site for more than a decade, said it had spent millions of pounds protecting the environment.
Peter McKenna, community relations manager at Dalradian, said: „You can go and speak to any climate scientist in the world and I think that they all agree on one thing, that we need to either vastly reduce or perhaps eradicate our reliance on fossil fuels.
„We can only do that by a huge increase in renewables and if we’re going to buy those installations and build the infrastructure in order to get that power to the point of use, we’re going to need a huge new set of sources of minerals and metals.”
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‘The wild west of Europe’
Last year, an industry body listed both Northern Ireland and the Republic in the top 10 most attractive places in the world for mining companies.
The island has been described as „the wild west of Europe” for environmental regulation, with 25% of the land in Northern Ireland and 27% in the Republic licensed for mining, compared to 0.2% in England.
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‘Trumpian’ environmental policies
James Orr, Northern Ireland director of Friends of the Earth, said the push for investment since the Troubles ended has taken priority over the environment.
„For many people within the establishment… they regard Northern Ireland as now being open for business, that’s the language they use,” he said.
„It’s as if we have Trumpian economic policies in terms of deregulation of environmental protections, many years before people even knew what Donald Trump was about.”
It is a battle being waged across the Atlantic, activists from the Standing Rock protest in North Dakota having visited the Sperrins to show solidarity.
The planning application for the gold mine is now the subject of a public inquiry.
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