A PROPOSED ban of using cyanide in future Clare mining operations that are located near groundwater has been backed by local councillors.
This has been welcomed by Futureproof Clare who claimed the new Government policy on mineral exploration and mining has been devised solely to facilitate the large scale extraction of minerals.
Councillor Johnny Flynn asked Clare County Council at a recent meeting to amend the wording of the new Draft County Development Plan to ensure there are proper environmental safeguards concerning the impact of any existing and proposed extractive industries.
Chief executive, Pat Dowling pledged to request senior planning officials to look at strengthening these safeguards in the final wording of the new County Development Plan before it comes back before members.
At the request of environmental campaigning group Futureproof Clare, Councillor Johnny Flynn brought the fact the county is not protected to the attention of the council.
Councillor Flynn said the Draft Regional Water Resources Plan for the East and Midlands has been adopted including a provision for the Shannon Abstraction Scheme.
“I was very concerned to see that a number of submissions from Clare councillors about groundwater protection were ignored.
“Of the 14 abstraction points for water in Clare, 11 of them are from groundwater, with one of the biggest in the country coming from the Drumcliffe Springs, serving almost 40,000 people living in the Ennis area.
“Irish Water Consultation Report says 80% of our small water supplies are from groundwater supplies,” he said.
The Irish Water risk analysis of groundwater supplies found the biggest risk factors were agriculture followed by historically polluted mine sites.
“Surface water bodies such as lakes and rivers are also at risk due to extractive industries. In light of Irish Water’s decision not to protect groundwater and provide alternative water supplies, the mining extractive industry is a huge risk to our water quality,” said the councillor.
He proposed the council should amend the Draft County Development Plan and adopt a similar wording to Leitrim’s CDP, which includes a provision the extraction of minerals and aggregates do not adversely affect the environment or adjoining existing land uses.
This amended wording sought additional safeguards for the environment and landscape, residential and tourism amenity.
In an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, mining proposals must illustrate the benefits of development will outweigh any adverse environmental consequences.
It is proposed that mercury, cyanide or cyanide compounds, breakdown products of cyanide, or sulphuric acid will be banned from any proposed processing operation located above or near surface or groundwater.
Acting Senior Planner, Helen Quinn stated the council recognised that extractive industries contribute to the construction sector, employment generation and the economic wellbeing of Clare.
“I am satisfied that the objectives of the Draft Clare County Development Plan 2023-2029 are sufficient to enable the protection of our natural resources from the potential environmental impact associated with existing and proposed extractive industries including mining.
“These objectives in the Draft Plan allow for the support of the industry, regardless of the technique or compound used, while also ensuring that best practice standards are followed to ensure the protection of the environment.”
Sinéad Sheehan, local resident and member of Futureproof Clare, explained licences have been granted by the Geo-sciences Office for prospecting of zinc, gold and silver in Clare.
“It makes sense to propose a ban on cyanide now because this is one of the toxic chemicals used in gold mining which can have detrimental effects on the local environment and public health,” she said.
Local resident and Futureproof Clare member, Emma Karran added Ireland is known to be the most attractive country in the world for mining companies right now, with 27% of its land covered by prospecting licenses.
“The new Government policy on Mineral Exploration and Mining has been devised solely to facilitate the large scale extraction of minerals.
“This is shocking and unacceptable when we have a biodiversity crisis threatening all life on the planet,” she claimed.