Thursday 22 March 2018

Dalradian hits €140m lucky streak on Irish gold mine

Mine workers use a jumbo drill to make holes for explosives in the underground tunnels inside the Curraghinalt gold project, near Omagh, Co Tyrone. Photo: Bloomberg
Mine workers use a jumbo drill to make holes for explosives in the underground tunnels inside the Curraghinalt gold project, near Omagh, Co Tyrone. Photo: Bloomberg

John Mulgrew

More than £120m (€141.2m) of gold could be mined annually from the Co Tyrone countryside within just three years, it has been claimed.

And the construction of the gold mine at Curraghinalt near Gortin could also create around 500 jobs for the duration of the build, according to the firm behind it, Dalradian Resources.

The Canadian-owned firm has already injected almost £60m into the project over the last seven years.

But now, it's ready to pull the trigger on the mine - submitting a full planning application by the end of the year.

If that gets the go ahead, work on the development could be under way in the space of a year.

According to Dalradian, surveys have shown there are more than four million ounces of gold at the site. It could produce 120,000 ounces of gold each year, and the mine could yield gold for decades.

It now has around 44 staff working on site, the majority employed from the Co Tyrone area. A further 22 are also employed through contractors.

Northern Ireland board member Jim Rutherford said the peak workforce at the construction stage could reach 500 employees.

The company is keen to employ workers from the local area where possible.

However, there remains a lack of staff here trained in the mining sector, and Dalradian are trying to work with colleges and universities to address the deficit.

"The goal is to have all the jobs locally sourced," said Mr Rutherford's fellow board member, Patrick Downey.

"This isn't a project that is going to take five years to construct. The actual processing side of it is fairly straightforward," Mr Rutherford said.

And while the major planning decision has to be taken by Stormont, work could begin on the mine as early as 12 months' time, with gold following around 18 months later.

Speaking about any potential benefits to the community, Mr Downey said: "It goes back in all the money people spend locally, there will be engineering firms benefiting, equipment suppliers... there's quite a multiplier from this."

As for the environmental impact and other concerns, he said: "The thing you want to do is design everything to exacting, world-class standards. The second thing is, an underground mine has a lot less of an environmental footprint than an open pit."

The business has already purchased what's known as surface rights for the land, including additional areas earlier this year.

But it would not say who owned the bulk of land it plans to mine on.

"I've been 5,000 metres down mines in South Africa and 4,500 metres up in the Andes," Mr Rutherford said. "This is one of the most exciting things I've come across in that time."

"It's a world-class deposit which we are going to do to the highest standard," Mr Downey added. "We are going to ensure that the communities are totally engaged and involved in it."

Dalradian has set up a 'community fund' in the area, with around £220,000 being allocated towards education and sports projects.

Irish Independent

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