So, if there is no chance of mining – why would they be prospecting? This was the question asked by Gerry Keane – one of the 6,900 residents in Connemara who is vehemently opposed to mining for gold and silver in the locality.

The opposition to the move is clearly evident in the close-knit Co. Galway Gealtacht region; in recent days the chairman of the local opposition group Niall Joyce handed in a petition with the 6,900 signatures opposing the move to the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment.

They are opposed to the granting of a prospecting licence in the Maam Valley and Corr na Móna areas of the Gaeltacht.

‘Genuine concerns’

Both Joyce and Keane have condemned the move by BTU Metals Corp of Vancouver and MOAG Copper Gold Resources – both of whom have sought prospecting licences from the department.

Keane says that people have “genuine concerns” about the impact that such mining would have on the area’s tourism industry and on the numerous Special Area of Conservation (SAC) zones.

People have a lot of concerns in this area over these developments.

He continued: “People are especially worried about a mine actually being put in place to facilitate the finding of gold and silver.

“We are being told not to worry about that because this is only prospecting and there is no indication at this point that mining will occur.

“Most of the area round here is SAC and we would have difficulties already in Connemara with people even getting planning permission to build homes.

“Therefore, placing a mine in the middle of SACs begs a number of questions.”

Not taking the chance

Keane went on to say that as a result of all these factors there was a “natural” concern over the granting of a prospecting licence for exploration in the area.

So, naturally we would be concerned if the prospecting licence went ahead and then for them to find that there are strong mineral deposits in the region – what then?

He added: “Those companies are out to make profits and help their shareholders, so we don’t want to take the chance of them obtaining the prospecting licence and then after that obtain a mining licence.

“Open cast mining in Connemara would not be good at all – this is a tourist area and we definitely do not what to see open cast mining of any sort here.

“Having said that we would be aware that there are one or two quarries in the area – they are existing and include the marble quarry and McGrath’s quarry further over.

“We definitely don’t want to stop them from quarrying; what we don’t want is new companies coming in and prospecting for minerals or obtaining licences to open mines.”

The impact

Meanwhile, the local resident pointed to how mines would blight the area’s beautifully rugged and wild terrain.

Mines would also have a visual impact on the region.

Keane continued: “One of the biggest industries in this area is small farms – our tourism industry is huge as well despite the fact that it is seasonal.

“We want to keep that because – there are a lot of guest houses, hotels, etc, around here that are dependent on that business.

“As regards agriculture, it would be predominately sheep farming in this area – there are a few farmers with cattle, but it is mostly sheep here.

“If there were open cast mines around here it would impact on the visual aspect of the area and that would definitely impact on tourism.

“The rivers that serve the Corrib here are mainly spawn beds for trout and salmon in the area – you don’t know what type of residue that would come from the mining that would end up destroying the waters as well.”