16 Aug 2022

Department for Economy grants 'exploration' licences to Dalradian

A local MLA has said the licensing process is 'not fit for purpose'.

Department for Economy grants 'exploration' licences to Dalradian

A sign outside Dungiven protesting against Dalradian.

The Department for the Economy (DfE) has granted two licences for exploration within the Sperrin mountains which came into effect at the beginning of this month.

Correspondence seen by Derry Now said the licences had been awarded to Dalradian Gold Ltd following a notification and consultation process that took place earlier this year.

The Mineral Prospecting Licences will allow the company to 'explore for minerals' within the specified zones, within which are included Dungiven, Claudy and the outskirts of Draperstown.

However, DfE stated that Dalradian will have to seek their approval for 'any specific exploration activity they may wish to undertake under their licence'.

They also said some further permissions from local councils, NI Environment Agency (NIEA) and the NI Health and Safety Executive may also be required.

DfE have also published a Consultation Report Summary in which they provided responses to issues raised during the consultation period.

1,635 responses were received as part of the process, with the Department extracting six main themes identified in them.

In the document, they rebuffed suggestions their consultation process had not been adequate, saying they had gone 'beyond the minimum requirements' set out in legislation.

DfE said no environmental screening was required in a prospecting area until a licensee 'notifies the Department of proposed specific exploration activity' that may impact the area.

“The Licensee must comply with the outcome of any Habitats Regulations assessment made by the Department,” they added.

Their response also indicated they felt 'due diligence' had been carried out during financial viability checks on the company, and said statutory bodies like NIEA had been consulted during the process.

“As specific exploration activities are notified to the Department throughout the lifetime of a licence, where appropriate, these statutory organisations are consulted,” they added.

As well as responding to concerns over Dalradian's ownership, the Department said 'all respondents' had raised concerns around the potential environmental impact of granting the licences.

“The evidence from the last 50 years of exploration suggests that there is little chance of serious or irreversible damage to the environment,” they said.

East Derry MLA Caoimhe Archibald.

“There is a risk, as damage cannot be ruled out, but the likelihood has been demonstrated to be negligible.”

DfE said it had 'passed on' to Dalradian all advice received from statutory bodies during the course of the consultation and notification period.

Sinn Féin MLA for East Derry, Caoimhe Archibald, said the current framework for licences is 'outdated and not fit for purpose'.

“Local communities in the areas affected have consistently raised their deep concerns about the potential environmental and health impacts such projects could have but those concerns have not been adequately addressed by either the Department for the Economy or Dalradian Gold Ltd,” she said.

“Sinn Féin has consistently made the point that given the complex and controversial nature of these planning applications, they should be subject to a public inquiry.

“The Department of Economy needs to carry out an urgent review into the current regulatory framework underpinning mineral licensing to ensure the highest standards of environmental protection and transparency are put in place.

“This is needed to improve public confidence in the process.

“A moratorium on the granting of mineral prospecting licences should be introduced and remain in place until the regulatory framework has been reviewed and amended.”

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