Sunday 26 March 2017

Frustration at broken promise on toxic mine

Vincent Ryan

DESPITE ministerial assurances, there is still no progress in rehabilitating Ireland's most toxic industrial site.

On June 29, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government John Gormley assured Deputy Ulick Burke in a written response to a parliamentary question that inter-departmental meetings would be arranged shortly in order to map out a strategy on how to deal with Ireland's most-hazardous industrial sites, including Tynagh mine in Co Galway.

The Sunday Independent has learned that no such meetings have taken place, and at the moment there is no date set for discussions.

According to a spokesman for the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, "a mutually acceptable date for holding the meeting could not be found between the two departments before the beginning of the holiday period."

Out of frustration with the inaction of the Irish government in relation to the rehabilitation of Tynagh mine, Mr Burke has referred the issue to Europe.

At his request, MEP for the north-west Jim Higgins has brought the issue to the attention of the European commission in the hope that this will spur the relevant Irish authorities into action. Deputy Burke said: "They were kicking it to touch all around. I had raised it in the Dail on numerous occasions and I had gone to them individually.

"Silvermines and Avoca have received some sort of funding for rehabilitation, but they are different. Due to the geology and neglect in Tynagh it is much more dangerous."

The Historic Mines Report published in May by the Environmental Protection Agency ranked Silvermines, Avoca and Tynagh as Class 1 environmental hazards and recommended that full remediation works be carried out on the sites.

The report found arsenic levels at 1,600 times the permitted level at Tynagh mine, as well as dangerously high concentrations of other toxic heavy metals.

There is already evidence that these contaminants are seeping into the surrounding ground water.

However, Galway County Council, which is the authority currently responsible for the remediation of the mine at Tynagh, told the Sunday Independent that it had no information regarding proposed meetings in relation to the mine.

Sunday Independent

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