Ireland: A protest over plans for a new open cast mine in Magheracloone

A protest over plans for a new open cast mine in Magheracloone, Co Monaghan, took place today.

The area was affected by a sinkhole over three years ago.

Residents at the protest today said they are worried about the levels of dust, noise, fumes, heavy construction vehicles and regular explosions that will affect people living and working in the area.

“We want clean air, we want to be able to send our children to the school without worrying if the wind is blowing in the right direction,” said Breda McGuigan.

“We are looking for something like the EPA have around the country to monitor air quality with real time monitoring and alarm systems available to everyone,” she added.

“If the mining proceeds then strict borders must be established and monitored to prevent landslides that threaten our homes,” said Geraldine Ward, another local resident.

Members of the anti-mining group Communities Against the Injustice of Mining (CAIM), attended the protest. They said they wanted to show solidarity with the local residents.

Mining company Gyproc has lodged plans to expand its operations in Magheracloone.

Two separate applications have been submitted to Monaghan County Council.

One seeks a major expansion of its open cast mining operations at the site, while the second plans for the replacement of the community centre.

The expansion of the GAA facilities is included in the planning application for the new open cast mine.

The Magheracloone Mitchells GAA club and local community centre were condemned and subsequently demolished after the sinkhole emerged in 2018.

A report into the incident found that operations involving the transport and storage of water in an old part of a mine had led to the collapse of several mining pillars, which probably led to the sinkhole.

The company had committed to replacing the facilities lost during the collapse of the underground mine in September 2018.

It was given approval just over a year ago for a new playing pitch and associated works including dressing rooms, toilets and a parking area. Work is under way on the project.

The company wants to expand the development further and has submitted plans to develop two more pitches, one an all-weather pitch and one with a running track.

A new building to house a meeting room, handball alley, changing room, toilets and sports hall are included in the plans.

A separate application to replace the lost community centre has also been made to Monaghan County Council.

Decisions on both planning applications are expected by mid to late March.

Mining has been taking place in the area since 1958. Gypsum extracted is used in the production of plasterboard.

In a statement to RTÉ News, Gyproc said it is committed to engaging in open dialogue with the community regarding its ongoing planning permission process.

It said it held a community information event last September that gave residents the opportunity to view the proposed plans and raise any questions or concerns they may have.

The company said the mining element of the planning permission is for continued regular mining activity, which is currently ongoing in the area and has been for the past 80 years.

It said careful consideration has been given to all environmental and societal aspects of the area when making this submission.

The company said that should the application be approved to extend current mining activity, water quality, air quality, vibration and noise will be controlled using best practice to ensure compliance with all statutory limits under the oversight of the relevant governing authorities and comprehensive monitoring by Gyproc.

The company said it was encouraging any member of the public who has queries about this to contact them.

In a statement to RTÉ News, the Magheracloone Community Centre Committee said “it believes the proposed new facility can be a focal point for the people of the area for social and sporting activities”.

The committee said it is “excited by the huge potential the development brings”.

It added that “having held a community vote and unveiled the plans for the facility in September, there is a strong desire to see the development proceed and bring much needed sorely missed amenities to this rural community”.

Magheracloone Mitchells said the club is looking forward to the development of the new proposed sports and recreation facilities, “which will be a huge lift to the entire community”, RTE writes.

Thousands of protesters blocked roads across Serbia due to the arrival of Rio Tinto

Crowds chanted slogans condemning government of Aleksandar Vučić, which backs planned Anglo-Australian $2.4bn mine

Thousands of demonstrators blocked major roads across Serbia on Saturday as anger swelled over a government-backed plan to allow mining company Rio Tinto to extract lithium.

In the capital, Belgrade, protesters swarmed a major highway and bridge linking the city to outlying suburbs as the crowd chanted anti-government slogans while some held signs criticising the mining project.

Smaller protests were held in other Serbian cities, with small scuffles between demonstrators and counter-protesters in Belgrade and the northern city of Novi Sad, according to local media reports.

“They allowed foreign companies to do whatever they want on our land. They put us on a platter for everyone who can just come and take whatever they want,” said Vladislava Cvoric, a 56-year-old economist, during the protest.

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic shared a photograph of the protest on Instagram and commented that “clean air, water and food are keys to health”.

“Without that, every word about ‘health’ is obsolete,” Djokovic said.

The protests followed similar demonstrations last week, during which masked men attacked one gathering in western Serbia’s Sabac – sparking outrage on social media and accusations the government was using hooligans to suppress the movement.

Substantial deposits of lithium – a key component for electric car batteries – have been found around the western town of Loznica, where the Anglo-Australian company is buying up land but is still awaiting the final green light from the state to begin mining.

Rio Tinto discovered lithium reserves in the Loznica region in 2006.

The company intends to invest $2.4bn (€2.12bn) in the project, according to Vesna Prodanovic, director of Rio Sava, Rio Tinto’s sister company in Serbia.

Critics have accused president Aleksandar Vučić’s government of setting the stage for illegal land appropriations and ignoring environmental concerns.

The demonstrations come months ahead of likely national elections in 2022, with critics of the protests accusing organisers of stirring controversy to undermine Vučić before the polls.


Thousands of protesters in Belgrade and other Serbian towns blocked main roads and bridges Saturday to decry a planned lithium mine

BELGRADE, Serbia — Thousands of protesters in Belgrade and other Serbian towns blocked main roads and bridges Saturday to decry a planned lithium mine despite police warnings and an intimidation campaign launched by authorities against the demonstrators.

Blowing whistles and chanting “Uprising! Uprising!” protesters stopped traffic on the main highway that goes through the Serbian capital. In the Balkan nation’s second-largest city of Nis, the main downtown street was blocked, as was a Danube River bridge in the northern city of Novi Sad.

In Novi Sad, soccer hooligans hurled rocks and bottles at the protesters, who responded by chasing them down. One hooligan was severely beaten. In Belgrade, masked men hurled flares at the protesters.

Uniformed police were not visible during the two-hour protests, which were the most massive demonstrations against the populist government in Serbia in many years.

It was the second such nationwide protest called by environmental groups amid growing public discontent with the autocratic rule of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Last Saturday, the protesters skirmished with police and in one town unidentified masked men attacked them with sticks and hammers.

Environmental groups have criticized Vucic’s populist government for not combating widespread pollution enough in the Balkan nation. They are especially against two laws passed by parliament that they see as laying the groundwork for a lithium mining operation by Rio Tinto in western Serbia.

In a sign of defiance, Vucic on Saturday ignored the protests and traveled to the site where the international mining company plans to start its excavations. His office said he wanted to talk to the locals about the project.

“Our goal is to have a civilized conversation and not under pressure from the streets,” Vucic told the pro-government Pink TV, adding that the police will not intervene Saturday against the protesters.

Vucic and other Serbian officials have denounced the protests and alleged they are financed by the West to destabilize the country and bring the opposition to power.

“The blockade of bridges, highways, roads and the paralysis of life in Belgrade and other cities in Serbia is not a way to express any opinion, but a gross violation of the rights of most citizens,’’ said Defense Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, alleging that opposition parties “want to return to power at any cost.”

Many protesters complained that police officers came to their homes and warned them they could face legal consequences and fines if they took part in the environmental rallies. Activist Danijela Vujovic from the southern city of Nis said police came to her home in the morning to warn her that the protests amounted to a “criminal act.”

“I don’t see how this is a criminal act,” Vujosevic told N1 regional television. Vujosevic’s daughter could be seen holding a small banner reading “I am public interest!”

The police on Saturday repeated their warning that the protests are illegal and that the organizers will have to bear all eventual consequences. They also issued a special telephone number and an email address for anyone who wanted to report “violence caused by the blockade.”