Connemara National Park Photo: Sabine Holzmann

Prospective mining license for Connemara refused

September 16th, 2019

An application for a prospecting licence for mining activities in Connemara has been refused by the Government.

The Canadian company planned to explore for metal, gold and silver in several townlands including Boolagare, Callow and Dolan. The proposed exploration would have taken place in parts of protected nature and heritage areas including the Connemara Bog Complex and Dogs Bay.

In June, the Department of Environment (DCCAE) announced its intention to grant a prospecting licence to MOAG. However, it has now refused the application as the company failed to provide additional information requested by DCCAE following its consideration of submissions received from the public and expert bodies.

In a submission to the Department, for example, An Taisce expressed concern about MOAG’s application ranging from its public consultation process, the extent of exploration activity as well as the type of minerals that are going to be explored for.

The submission stated that there are “significant legal questions” to be raised about the lack of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the current mineral exploration licencing regime in terms of screening for the suitability of the location of exploration areas.

The refusal was welcomed by Green Party Councillor for Galway City Pauline O’Reilly who had urging the Department to re-evaluate the application together with concerned locals.

A petition objecting to the granting of any licence “on the grounds of threats to the health and wellbeing of the natural environment” gained over 10,000 signatures. In addition, thousands of indivuals sent letters to DCCAE.

Ms O’Reilly said that the licence would have compromised “water quality, wildlife and the local economy” in the area. “This is one of the country’s most outstanding areas of beauty,” she said.

Prospecting licences, Ms O’Reilly said, could place Ireland in a difficult place legally and give mining companies a legitimate expectation of mining if gold and minerals are found. 

Continued demand

Ms O’Reilly added that opposing similar prospecting licences in the area remains a concern. “MOAG still have a licence in Carna, and [another Canadian exploration company] BTU is still applying in Maam and Joyce valley, so the campaign continues.”

Her green colleague, Councillor Alastair McKinstry, recently put forward a motion seeking to block all similar applications that will be voted on by the Council in the coming weeks.

“I am confident my fellow councillors will vote to get the [Department of Environment] to block these applications and signal no further mining development in the area,” he said. 

A recent report presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) warned that mining operations by Canadian firms across nine Latin American countries have left “serious environmental impact” by destroying glaciers, polluting water and rivers and cutting down forests.

In a statement issued to The Green News in July, a spokesperson for the Department of the Environment (DCCAE) said that Connemara Park fell under safeguarding regulations devised for National Parks, under which no prospecting activity is allowed in those areas.

“All prospecting licences considered by the Department are subject to extensive environmental screening and assessment,” the statement read.

The Department said that three separate State consents are required in order to start mining and the process provides for extensive public consultation to ensure environmental compliance.

“An Integrated Pollution Control License is required from the Environmental Protection Agency, planning permission is required from the Local Authority (including full environmental impact assessment), and a Mining License is required from the Minister for Climate Action,” the statement continued.

About the Author

Shamim Malekmian

Shamim is a Senior Reporter at The Green News and a contributing writer to the Irish Examiner, Cork Evening Echo and the Dublin Inquirer.

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