REGULAR and independent audits will be carried out on the use of cyanide if the go-ahead is given for a gold processing plant operated by Dalradian in Greencastle, according to an expert on the use of the toxic substance.
Christine Blackmore is visiting the area today (Thursday) to advise the company on the procedures and laws relating to cyanide.
Speaking to the Ulster Herald, she said that the firm – whose plans for the use of cyanide have provoked widespread protests and concern locally – would be adhering to the International Cyanide Management Insitute’s code of practice.
This would include, she added, a qualified expert reviewing all the ‘plans, protocols and procedures’ for the safe storage of the substance.
“Dalradian intends to become a signatory of the ICMI, as well as any EU/UK or local legislation/regulations necessary for safe practices for the use of cyanide to protect human health and the environment,” Ms Blackmore said.
“As part of the compliance to the cyanide code, regular audits will be undertaken by external ICMI accredited auditors and experts on all aspects of the operation using cyanide and on all associated support sections, such as procurement, transportation, emergency response, dialogue with communities, decommissioning, health and safety and environmental.”
Ms Blackmore said that the cyanide which Dalradian would be using will be transported and stored in the area in solid briquettes.
She said the waste rock exposed to cyanide will be ‘kept on site’ and returned underground after undergoing a ‘detoxification process.’
“Dalradian will build a purpose-built secure store that will be strictly controlled as per the International Cyanide Management Institute and the ICMI code of practice for the storage of cyanide which Dalradian intends to sign up to,” she said.
“This code is internationally renowned for the safe management of cyanide for the goldmining industry.”
She added that the company would not be using a tailings dam or liquid tailings which were similar to those used when a major overflow accident occurred in Romania in 2000.
“There will be three types of waste rock at the mine. Crushed rock from the underground mine that will be stored on the surface, tailings from the processing that will be ‘dry-stacked’ on surface and material that has been exposed to cyanide (which is less than ten per-cent of the mined material) and will be kept on site and returned underground after undergoing a detoxification process.
Farming livelihoods ‘on the line’ if gold processing goes ahead
FARMERS have outlined to the Agriculture Minister why they are opposed to the prospect of cyanide being used at a 104 acre processing plant in Greencastle.
During a meeting with Michelle O’Neill in the area last Thursday, farmers said they fear that the toxic chemical could seep into the water table affecting public health and farming livelihoods.
One farmer said, “The department has put a lot of money into Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) schemes.
“What’s going to happen to those who are left behind when Dalradian get going? Is there going to be a prohibition on where produce can go? None of us know what affect cyanide is going to have.”
Mid-Ulster councillor Sean Clarke, who farms in the area, said, “This area is under siege.
“These sites are to be based in the Sperrins and will impact upon the characteristics of the landscape. It would just be awful if this went ahead.”
After speaking to farmers and visiting the proposed site, Minister O’Neill said, “There are too many unknowns – people can talk about job creation but for me it is about protecting the countryside.
“Farmers are the natural custodians of the countryside, so their views are valid.
“These people are concerned about the impact to the environment, the spill into the watercourse, the whole nature of the area changing.”
Sinn Féin West Tyrone MLA, Declan McAleer, added that the use of cyanide was a “red line” for the party and one they will oppose.
Vice chair of Greencastle Rouskey & Gortin Concerned Community Group, Bernie Fox, said the community was “extremely heartened” by the minister’s visit.
“We are encouraged by her offer of assistance to provide research and information about the dangers and risks of such a development, and her promise to raise our shared concerns with the Minister for Department of Environment, Mark Durkan.
“Cross community farming representatives attended this event last Thursday and it was clear they all realise that a toxic processing plant and dump has the very real potential to destroy their health, the land they have worked hard to protect and ultimately their livelihoods.”