A proposed gold mine in Co Tyrone could bring “significant economic benefit” to Northern Ireland, an industry body has claimed.
And Gordon Best, chairman of the Quarry Products Association Northern Ireland, said the mining and quarrying industry could create “hundreds of well-paid jobs” with better understanding and support.
Writing in trade publication Plant and Civil Engineer, Mr Best said the quarrying industry in Northern Ireland could become the “envy of the world”.
He said discussions around mining for gold in Gortin in Co Tyrone by Canadian company Dalradian had created debate.
The company is expected to submit a planning application for the mine at Curraghinalt site under the Sperrin Mountains in the next few months. Dalradian has said a fully working mine could support 300 construction jobs during the build, with a further 350 roles during the mine’s lifetime.
Residents have said they are concerned about the potential environment impact of a mine.
But Mr Best said QPANI had highlighted “the significant economic benefit that a successful planning application and future operating gold mine in the Sperrins would bring, not just to the north west, but the whole of Northern Ireland”. He added: “Dalradian’s project represents a great opportunity for Tyrone, a county with a strong history of mineral extraction, manufacturing and engineering.
“Some of the world’s leading mineral and construction material handling equipment manufacturers are based in Tyrone and a gold mine in the county is a great fit for the skills, know-how and experience that already exist there.
“I am sure that building on that collective experience, Dalradian’s gold mine will be a major boost to the economy in Tyrone and indeed for the whole of the west of the Bann.”
He said the island of Ireland had a long history of mining, with the industry making a major contribution to the economy on both sides of the border.
“I have no doubt that with better understanding, community support and insistence on world class operational requirements, we could have a mining and quarrying industry in Northern Ireland that would be the envy of the world, would create hundreds of well paid jobs and make an enormous contribution to the financial pot the Executive and Assembly has to invest in local communities, health, education and infrastructure.”
Mr Best said the Budget published by the Secretary of State James Brokenshire in Westminster yesterday had brought the sector some certainty.
But he said there had been “no real change” for infrastructure spending, with a 1.1% increase in capital budgets for 2017/18.
“The budget … has at least given us some sort of certainty going forward for the rest of this financial year.”