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Christine O Brien, with one of her horses Monroe, on the family farm at Ardboula, Tulla. She is opposed to the granting of any prospecting licence which lead to mining in East Clare. Photograph by John Kelly

Appeal to ‘keep Tulla untouched’ as mineral prospecting looms

CONCERN over the possibility of mineral prospecting in East Clare has prompted the formation of an opposition group in the Tulla area. 

Keep Tulla Untouched was set up on foot of a notice by the Department of the Environment signalling its intention to grant a prospecting licence to Minco Ireland.

Christine O’Brien, whose land spans a number of the townlands earmarked for silver and gold prospecting, is among the members of the group.

The organisation’s submission describes the local community as “stunned” at the possibility of mineral exploration. Keep Tulla Untouched has objected to the the prospecting licence on the basis that the original public consultation period, which spanned Christmas, was too short.

While this has been extended to January 23, following the intervention of Senator Róisín Garvey, the group insists that there has not been enough information.

The submission also asks that “due consideration is given to the fact that these explorations are being considered for areas that are under ecological and heritage protection on national and European level”.

Speaking to The Champion, Ms O’Brien, who lives in Ardboula, described her shock. The Western Australia native farms, along with her husband, on a number of the townlands in question.

They have an organic suckler herd and hold an equine licence to provide sanctuary to donkeys.

“As farmers who own lands in a very sensitive landscape, we are used to working within a lot of environmental restrictions,” she outlined.

“Some of these restrictions involve quite severe penalties if broken. We operate by balancing the requirements of the Department of Agriculture with those of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). That can be tricky.

“If we want to flail scrub or remove surface stones, we have to get written permissions. Can you imagine the impact if mining is allowed on these lands? Farming livestock would no longer be possible in that case. The landscape would be forever changed and that’s completely unacceptable.”

Ms O’Brien is also a member of Tourism East Clare and contrasted the process of public notification on matters of local interest.

“When we are holding our AGM, we have to advertise that widely, in two newspapers and in local newsletters,” she said. “I can’t understand how a Government department doesn’t have to do that.”

Ms O’Brien welcomed the two-week extension to the consultation period. She took issue, however, with the suggestion that the plans may not advance beyond the prospecting stage.

“Why bother with securing a prospecting licence if you don’t intend to engage, eventually, in mining?” she said.

An online meeting of Keep Tulla Untouched will take place very soon, Ms O’Brien added.

“People can keep an eye on our Facebook page or send an email to keeptullauntouched@gmail.com to get more information,” he said.

A map of the townlands affected is available at: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/507ce-prospecting-licence-notices/.

The Department said that a prospecting licence authorises exploration for mineral deposits, but not the mining of any minerals. The Geoscience Regulation Office can be contacted by email at gsro@decc.gov.ie or by post to the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, 29-31 Adelaide Road, Dublin, D02 X285 or by phone at 01-6782668.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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