A licence permitting exploration activity by Tara Mines in Co Meath has been renewed. Such a licence allows for exploration for specified minerals in a defined geographic area, but does not give permission to mine.
The prospecting licence expired on the 29 December last year. The renewal was confirmed by a spokesperson for the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications and the company’s general manager, Gunnar Nystrom.
The Tara mines are located close to Navan and are Europe’s largest zinc mine. 595 staff are employed at the mine, according to the company’s website. SIPTU, which represents a large number of workers at Tara Mines, has today made a fresh call for a meeting with Minister Eamon Ryan to “discuss the delay in issuing a renewal of a prospecting licence”.
The issue was discussed at a general meeting of members in Navan last night, along with a proposed pay deal and other issues. SIPTU previously said it had been informed of what it called “financial pressures” facing Tara Mines during a meeting with management in recent weeks.
It said that its members believed these included a “failure of the Geoscience Regulation Office to issue a renewal drilling licence for an area of the mine’s operation, which has been outstanding since December 2022”. In a statement, the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications said that Boliden, the operator of Tara Mines, has an obligation to carry out its operations within the licenced area “in such a manner as not to interfere unnecessarily with the amenities of the locality in which the licenced area is situated”.
“During the previous licence period, the activity of the company impacted on a local amenity. Therefore, the Geoscience Regulation Office, on behalf of the Minister, has over the course of a period of months engaged extensively with the company to ensure that they operate to the terms and conditions of their licence. This process is robust and consistent with all applications for renewal of prospecting licences,” the spokesperson said.
Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan sought submissions from the public about the renewal of this specific licence in March this year. A number were submitted and considered as part of the process. “The process has now concluded and the licence has been renewed,” the spokesperson said.
Boliden Tara Mines said today that it wanted to “emphasise that the company has regular engagement with employees and unions with respect to our operation”.
Following its meeting last night, SIPTU said members were also updated on the outcome of recent discussions with senior management on issues impacting the operations of the mine.
The union said it had been informed by management that the company had been told the mine does not qualify for access to an EU fund set up to support companies in difficulty due to the cost of energy, because it is involved in mineral extraction.
The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment said that it met with representatives of Tara Mines (Boliden) at the end of last year, along with officials from the Department of the Environment.
It said this meeting was to discuss the possibility of funding under EU state aid flexibilities introduced as a consequence of Russia’s war on Ukraine. The Department said that the current Ukraine Enterprise Crisis Scheme provides for the support of manufacturing and internationally traded services companies only.
It said in relation to the inclusion of additional sectors in the UECS, implementation of the scheme was under constant review “in the context of the budgetary envelope for this scheme, price trends, cost benefit added value and the underlying views of the Department of Public Expenditure and reform in that regard”.
There are two existing funding streams under the scheme, which allows companies apply for a maximum of €2 million and €4 million respectively. The Department of Enterprise said a third stream focused on the microelectronics manufacturing sector in Ireland to be implemented by the IDA has yet to be formally launched.
A proposed pay deal was also discussed at last night’s meeting of SIPTU members.
SIPTU said the pay proposal of 3% for 12 months and a voucher, was a result of negotiations between the union and management at the Workplace Relations Commission.
Members are to be balloted on the deal, which has been recommended by the union’s section committee.