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Concerns raised over Ring of Gullion ‘gold rush’ 

September 4, 2017

A campaign group, set up to oppose proposals for gold mining in parts of south Armagh, is seeking the support of the wider community to help protect the beauty and heritage of the area and take a stand against those it claims are seeking to disturb the natural habitat for monetary reward.

The Save Our South Armagh community group says it is deeply concerned at the proposal to grant prospecting licenses to Conroy Gold in the wards of Camlough, Crossmaglen, Mullaghbawn, Newtownhamilton and Whitecross.

Spokesperson for the group, Rosie Finnegan, criticised a lack of transparency surrounding the proposals and claims the public consultation period has been “flawed from the outset”

Speaking to The Examiner, Ms Finnegan said: “Our concerns are two-fold and relate  to the lack of transparency and meaningful public engagement throughout the consultation process as well as the significant impact this development could have on our communities and surrounding environment if these licenses were to be granted.”

“We are deeply disturbed at what appears to be a rush to start exploring for gold in one of the most beautiful areas of Northern Ireland.  A significant proportion of the area for which the licenses are being sought lies within the Ring of Gullion area, which was recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1991,” she revealed.

 Pointing out that Slieve Gullion is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SACs) and has been given strict protection under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives, she continued: “These have been designated as the best examples of special habitats or species which contain and provide increased protection to a variety of animals, plants and habitats of importance to biodiversity on an international scale. In addition, the Slieve Gullion area is also recognised as an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) because of its unique geological and biodiversity.  We cannot allow this precious heritage to be destroyed in order to facilitate quick gain and profit.”

Ms Finnegan has accused the Department for the Economy, which has responsibility for granting such licenses, of failing to properly disclose details of the proposals.

“The Department for the Economy has come under increasing scrutiny because of the lack oftransparency, with a lack of information made available to the public during the consultation period, which seems to have been flawed from the outset.  There has been a complete lack ofdisclosure on the detail of the proposed prospecting work programme in order for local residents to make informed comment,” she said.

“The Aarhus Convention Agreement 2001 specifically guarantees the rights of access to information and public participation in decision-making.  However, the Department’s actions would seem to fly in the face of this as it has explicitly stated in the consultation advertisement its proposal to grant prospecting licenses to Conroy despite any meaningful public engagement or debate.  There has been a lack of public engagement and flawed advertising throughout this entire process as the public have had very little opportunity to express their concerns about the potential impact the granting of these licenses could have on their communities and surrounding environment.”

Urging public support for the campaign against potential mining for gold in the area, she added:

“This is an issue which affects each and everyone of us.  In fact, this is arguably one of the most controversial issues facing south Armagh in recent years with the potential to significantly impact communities across the area, not least of which involves the disposal of our local assets.”

Ms Finnegan said local MLAs Megan Fearon and Justin McNulty have also voiced concern and revealed the issue is to be discussed at a meeting of Newry Mourne and Down District Council today (Monday).

The Save Our South Armagh community group asks the public to submit their objections to the licensing application by email to: minerals@economy-ni.gov.uk and to Council CEO Liam Hannaway:  liam.hannaway@nmandd.org  ahead of the close of the consultation period, which has been extended until 15th September at 5.00pm.

To discuss the issue or for further information, contact Rosie Finnegan at rosiefinneganbell@gmail.com.

Maps of the area subject to the licensing application by Conroy Gold can be viewed on the Department for the Economy website at the following link https://www.economy-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/consultations/economy/Conroy-C3-Consultation-map.pdf.

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