July 4th, 2019
A Green Party politician has urged the State to protect Connemara National Park by refusing to issue a licence for mineral exploration in Co Galway to a Canadian company.
The Department for Climate Action has said that it “intends” to grant a licence to Ontario-based firm MOAG Copper Gold Resources to explore for metal, gold and silver in several Townlands in Galway including Boolagare, Callow and Dolan.
Galway City Councillor Pauline O’Reilly warned, however, that there are possible health and environmental impacts of mining activities, adding that the laws around mining need to be bolstered to safeguard the environment.
“Connemara National Park is at risk due to a licence to prospect for gold, which could have serious health implications as well as impacting on the wildlife of the area,” Ms O’Reilly said.
“The law around mining and drilling is a cause for concern. Chief among the worries is the fact that as with drilling at sea, there is no requirement by companies to lodge environmental impact assessment prior to mining.”
Ms O’Reilly stressed that “lax” Irish regulations for mining have turned the country into a haven for large mining companies, warning about the potential, detrimental impact of such activities on people’s health.
“Given this laxity, there is a huge risk in terms of the health of our community and nature,” she said. “Galway is an area with particularly high levels of radon which creates an increased risk of radioactive contaminants being released into the atmosphere and local water supplies.”
The Green Party councillor also cautioned about cyanide contamination, a potential risk factor in mining for gold. “Where low levels of gold are discovered mining companies often treat the area with cyanide to uncover trace amounts, with heavy rainfall, this can very easily be released into groundwater,” Ms O’Reilly said.
She called on the public to send their objections to the licence to the Department of Climate Action by the deadline of 6 July. “People, farm animals, fish and wildlife, depend on clean freshwater, and this is our chance to retain some semblance of control,” Ms O’Reilly added.
A petition objecting to the granting of any licence “on the grounds of threats to the health and wellbeing of the natural environment” has gained over 1,500 signatures since its launch yesterday.
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.
Canadian mining activities has also led to the forced displacement of people in Latin American countries and has endangered people’s health, according to the report.
In a Statement issued to The Green News, a spokesperson for the Department of Climate Action said that Connemara Park fell under safeguarding regulations devised for National Parks, under which no prospecting activity is allowed on 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.