THE Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) in Dublin says residents of Inishowen have nothing to fear from gold prospectors operating in the peninsula.
A spokesperson for the Irish Resources Minister Pat Rabittee confirmed three gold prospectors were granted licences in Inishowen over the past three years.
But he told the Sentinel the licences strictly prohibit operations that cause damage to the local environment.
Furthermore, the spokesperson said, in the event of gold being discovered an entirely separate permitting process would have to be observed.
This would include comprehensive environmental protection statements and surveys.
DCENR confirmed to the Sentinel, Gold Note Minerals Ltd. was granted a propsecting licence at the end of May 2013.
Midas Mineral Resources Limited and Grosvenor Exploration and Mining Services (Ireland) Ltd. have held prospecting licences in the adjoining areas on Inishowen since September 2010.
Some local residents have raised concerns about the potential environmenral impact of gold prospecting and ultimately gold mining in the peninsula.
In literature forwarded to the Sentinel, a concerned resident states: “It seems it is ‘Open Season’ in Donegal. The 2009 Report on the State Mining Leases, State Mining Licences and Prospecting Licences Competition reveals that practically the entire county is up for grabs. Inishowen is one big dollar sign of ‘Available Ground’ where applications by the world’s mining companies will be treated on a ‘first come, first served basis.’”
Elsewhere, the residents warn that gold extraction - where approved - can involve ‘heap leaching’ that residents claims involves the use of cyanide.
The residents ask: “Would you want your child to go to a school that was at significant risk of being exposed to emissions that are invisible but highly toxic?
“Would you bring your child to a holiday destination where cyanide-laden waters drain through the river systems onto sandy shores and out into the Atlantic Ocean?
“Would you eat seafood with high levels of mercury?
“Would you be a second home, invest money in business, or pay to be a member of a golf club in a heavily industrialised and polluted (lead, cadmium, mercury, cyanide) landscape?”
The Sentinel put these concerns to DCENR but they moved to reassure people living in Inishowen.
A spokesperson stated: “The general public and local residents may be assured that in carrying out all survey activities within the licensed area, it is a strict condition that the licensee must conduct operations so as to avoid damage to the environment and the amenities of the area, to avoid or minimise disturbance of persons resident there and comply with all relevant statutory planning and environmental requirements.
“In the event that a viable resource is identified and the licensees wish to apply for permission to mine, there is an entirely separate permitting process to be observed including a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement to support applications to the local authority for Planning Permission and to the Environmental Protection Agency for an Integrated Pollution Control Licence. Both of these permitting processes allow for public scrutiny of the EIS and as well as statutory consultation.”