Farmers near Greencastle in Country Tyrone are concerned about how a planned gold processing plant may impact on local agriculture and environment.

Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill visited the area last week at the request of residents and local representatives, and plans to raise the concerns with the plant owners, Canadian mining company Dalradian Gold Ltd.

The company says it is continuing its consultation with the community in the coming months, after which a final design will be presented to them this summer. The planning application is expected to be submitted in the autumn.

It is understood Dalradian will employ at least 200 people during construction and 200 during the mine’s operation over a period of up to 20 years.

“Dalradian Gold began underground exploration for gold in County Tyrone in 2014 and has now outlined their intention to locate a mine and processing plant within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty just outside Greencastle,” Minister O’Neill said.

“The company has confirmed that it intends to use cyanide at its processing plant to separate the gold from ore. As Minister of Agriculture I share the concerns of local residents regarding the potential negative impact that this process will have on farmers, rural dwellers and our environment.”

‘Handful of almonds’

A Dalradian spokesperson told that it understands community concerns around cyanide.

“It is consequently one of the most highly regulated substances in the world and is used safely in many industrial applications, not just mining,” the spokesperson said.

“Dalradian is voluntarily opting into the International Cyanide Management Code. In our process, we will reduce the concentration to less than what you’d find in a handful of almonds.”

The spokesperson said the company noted the Minister’s comments and has followed up with her to request a meeting.

“The skills this mine will develop can provide well paid jobs for generations, contributing to building a sustainable economy in the region and especially in the West … Our initial assessments indicate that a significant deposit of gold is present, enough to sustain an operation that will provide at least 200 jobs for a period of up to 20 years.”

The spokesperson said Dalradian will continue to engage with members of the community and politicians at the local and national level to ensure it is delivering a sustainable plan which protects the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and creates hundreds of new jobs.

“During both the construction and operation of the mine Dalradian will be conforming to the highest environmental standards, going above and beyond what is legally required. During operations all surface water will be tested and if necessary treated before leaving the site.”