Approximately 90% of the population of Connemara is opposed to an application by a mining company to seek a prospecting licence for gold and silver in the region.

In fact, so enraged have the people of the Gaeltacht region become in recent times over the move by BTU Metals Corp of Vancouver and MOAG Copper Gold Resources – both of whom have sought prospecting licences from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment – over 6,900 people have signed a petition indicating their opposition to the development.

Niall Joyce from Maam Valley says a prospecting licence has been in place for the area since 2013 but it was only when the renewal of that licence was sought in 2017 did it become clear to residents “what exactly was going on”.

He also pointed to how opposed people in the area are to mining of any kind because of Special Area of Conservation (SAC) designation and the dependence of the locality on tourism.

An unsustainable move

Meanwhile, Joyce also pointed out that mining in Connemara would be “unsustainable”.

It would create a micro-economy in the area for maybe 30 years and that would be the end.

He continued: “The landscape would be left in tatters; the landscape around here is strewn with national monuments and therefore the minister is required to make a ruling on whether or not works can be carried out in areas such as these.”

He went on to say that even if underground mining was to become an option, that too would bring its own set of problems to the region.

“Even with underground mining there would be a need for what is called tailing ponds.”

Joyce continued: “This means that any of the water that is pumped into the mining process must be pumped back out and left in a pond to settle.

“That water would then eventually make its way back into a water course and if it’s controlled in an appropriate manner that water will be clean, purified water that is going back in.

“The problem is, though, that around mountains where mining could or would take place here that would be on SAC ground and boglands.”

Impact on the environment

He went on to say that when “working into a mountain” there is always a river to one side of it.

Joyce continued: “That means that you would have to dig into bog that is all SAC ground, right next to a river.

“There is no space either side of the mountain or the river to put in a tailing pond – they are massive.

“Also where there is gold there is cyanide and so the water and sludge that gathers at the bottom of the mine has to be pumped back out.

“It usually ends up being pumped back out into ground water – so that raises serious questions about water quality.”

Decision time

Meanwhile, Maam Valley resident Gerry Keane pointed to how that particular area of Connemara has the second-highest rainfall in the country, being outshone by Cahirshiveen, Co. Kerry, which has the highest.

So, you can only imagine the problems in respect of that; that will be caused by mining here.

He continued: “We hope that we can prevent this from happening here – the public was given 30 days to make its objections.

“We have done that and a decision-making process is currently taking place.

“We will know in a couple of weeks if we have been successful or not.”