Campaigners say the area is home to rich biodiversity and natural landscape, and is not appropriate for the type of mining that any prospecting may unveil
Environmental campaigners have said they will vigorously resist any attempts to begin mining in east Clare, after the Department of the Environment approved a licence for a company to explore the possibility.
The department said that Environment Minister Eamon Ryan intended to grant a prospecting licence to Navan, Co Meath-based Minco Ireland for base metals, barytes, as well as gold and silver ore around Tulla in Clare.
The prospecting licence allows for the exploration of mineral deposits, but does not authorise actual mining of any minerals.
The notice from the department said that environmental impacts in terms of a prospecting licence were, “in general”, non-invasive.
“The minister has assessed the exploration programme proposed by the company, and has determined that the activities are not likely to have a significant effect on the environment,” the notice stated.
There are two underground mines operating in Ireland. Tara in Co Meath produces zinc concentrate, while Drummond in Co Monaghan produces gypsum.
Mines at Galmoy in Co Kilkenny and Lisheen in Co Tipperary, which both produced zinc and lead, were closed in the past decade.
Environmental group Futureproof Clare reacted angrily to the announcement of the prospecting licence for Co Clare by the department, saying it was done by stealth and with no consultation locally.
Campaigners say the area is home to rich biodiversity and natural landscape, and is not appropriate for the type of mining that any prospecting may unveil.
A petition from the group demanding the licence be refused has garnered 1,500 signatures.
It claimed that in Europe, mining is increasingly affecting Natura 2000 and wetlands of international importance, known as Ramsar sites, set aside for conserving nature.
The petition stated: “81% of habitats, and 63% of the species that these laws were designed to protect, still have an ‘unfavourable’ conservation status, according to the European Environment Agency.
“Goldmining is one of the most destructive industries in the world. It can displace communities, contaminate drinking water, destroy the landscape, has a negative impact on small-scale farming and fishing, and eco-tourism, while also being a threat to existing employment in the area.”
According to the department’s own policy information, “there is significant potential across Ireland for industrial minerals”.
In recent years, gypsum, dolomite, silica sand, brick shale, and fireclay have all been mined, it stated.
“The development of Irish mineral deposits is an important component of the economy, providing essential minerals for industry, while generating employment and revenue for the State,” the policy states.
“By promoting mineral exploration, the Government enables the discovery and development of economic deposits. In doing this, it aims to maximise the mining sector’s contribution to the economy, while protecting against social and environmental impacts.”
Minco said in its interim six-month report ending June 2021 that the medium- to long-term demand for metals is increasing.
“The principal reason for the positive outlook is the growing recognition that metals and minerals are essential for addressing climate change and adapting to a green economy,” the report stated.