Gold rush: Local fears over mining prospect
The possibility of a gold and silver mine in Connemara has been met with furious criticism and concern from the locals.
A Canadian mining company has applied for a prospecting licence for Roundstone, Ballyconneely and Ballynahinch in Connemara from the Department of the Environment, which would allow the company to explore the area to see if there are valuable minerals for extraction.
If minerals of interest were found by MOAG Copper Gold Resources, it would then have a right to apply for planning permission to dig a mine.
However, the local community is concerned at the impact the mining would have on the environment - a petition opposing a prospecting licence hit 5,000 signatures yesterday.
"A lot of the area is designated as a protected national heritage area, but the process is in the very early stages," said Councillor Thomas Welby. "A lot of people have contacted me, very concerned about the application.
"The area is very scenic and there's a lot of concern about what would happen next if the application was granted."
Public meetings were held in Connemara two weeks ago and a protest took place at County Hall yesterday.
Speaking to Galway Bay FM in Galway yesterday, Environment Minister Richard Bruton reassured protesters "strict guidelines" will be adhered to.
"I can understand the concerns but I think it's important to say this is an application and there will be very strict environmental criteria applied in assessing it," he said.
The petition states that objections are raised on the "grounds of threats to the health and well-being of the natural environment and that of the local community".
"Mining is a process that is hugely destructive to land, water and air and to all who require these for their continued healthy existence," the petition reads.
Submissions closed on July 6 and a decision is to be made in the coming weeks.