Dalradian is committed to the long-term development of the Curraghinalt gold deposit which is anticipated to have a lifespan of 20-25 years. As part of this long-term commitment, environmental management is and will be integral to all that we do.
For that reason Dalradian often goes beyond the environmental protection standards required by regulators. One of the most important resources to consider is water and Dalradian has submitted detailed water management proposals, which are publicly available. There are, however, some misconceptions about what impact Dalradian’s plans will have on local water resources and these are addressed below.
MISCONCEPTION: Current operations at Curraghinalt are unregulated.
FACT: Dalradian’s current operations at Curraghinalt, which are focused on exploration, are subject to strict regulation. Any water discharged from our operations is done so under consent from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA). The existing water management process on-site includes a multi-stage water purification system which incorporates sumps, storage/settlement tanks and a clarifier . The entire process is also open to inspection by the public during our frequent tunnel tour events.
The system continuously monitors discharges (flow rates and key water quality parameters) and quarterly reports (which are available to the public) are produced for NIEA. The NIEA has set a range of separate standards for discharged water, including a maximum sediment content of 50mg per litre. Typically, the sediment content in the water we discharge is less than 10mg per litre, and the discharge is computer controlled to stop if the consent limit is approached.
Further monitoring of the local river network in west Tyrone, an area covering c.30 square kilometres, is also ongoing. Several years of data are included in our Environmental Statement. This provides a benchmark of current water quality, enabling us to demonstrate that the receiving water courses will not be adversely impacted in future, and that strict environmental standards will be met.
MISCONCEPTION: Dalradian will put a strain on domestic water supplies
FACT: The project has been designed to prioritise recycling of water and minimise the overall requirement for fresh water. Water which is required will be sourced primarily from captured surface water run-off. Importantly, no water needs to be imported to the area to support the process. Process water requirements for the proposed mine development have been determined to be relatively low at 22.16m3/hr. However, the bulk of this requirement can be met by recycling water already store on site. Furthermore, a new pumping station will be built at Greencastle, as included in the planning application. This pumping station will ensure that there is no impact on domestic supplies and will be paid for entirely by Dalradian.
MISCONCEPTION: Mining operations will pollute water supplies.
FACT: To support the proposed mine and processing plant at Curraghinalt, Dalradian will construct a new bespoke state-of-the-art water treatment facility, and also upgrade the existing water treatment plant. As with the current system, the new facility will include an automatic shut-off to prevent water being discharged that is not in compliance with parameters set by NIEA. All of the water that comes out of the mine or falls on the infrastructure site during operations will be captured, treated and tested before discharge. A key part of the water management system will be the development of water storage ponds which will separately contain fresh water and water that has come into contact with mine infrastructure , including water removed from the underground mine and surface water runoff from within the infrastructure area.
The ponds will be 100% excavated into the ground and, therefore, there will be no need for water retaining embankments. Mine contact water ponds have been designed to contain a 1 in a 1000 year, 24- hour storm event without over-topping. Water storage capacities can be increased further, if applicable, by a temporary termination of processing operations and/or mine dewatering. Water from the ponds will be reused on the site for processing, spray water and other operational requirements.
Before discharge, excess water will be treated at the water treatment plant using reverse osmosis water purification technology (this involves a semi-permeable membrane that removes ions, molecules and large particles). Our baseline studies have established that water quality in the area can naturally exceed drinking water standards for iron and manganese. With the exception of these pre-existing conditions, water discharged will meet drinking water standards as applicable.
MISCONCEPTION: There will be a major impact upon ground and surface water
FACT: During operations water will be pumped out of the mine to make it safe for people to work underground. This dewatering will lower groundwater levels around the mine workings for the duration of the operational phase of the mine. In the closure phase, dewatering of the mine will be terminated and water levels will gradually recover to approximate pre- operational or existing levels. Changes to surface water run-off as a result of the project will be too small to adversely affect flows in nearby rivers or tributaries of Lough Foyle.
Water management is- quite correctly- a highly regulated and technical area. Dalradian has put forward detailed plans which include mitigation measures and will continue to work closely with statutory bodies, such as NIEA, to ensure agreement and compliance with water licence stipulations.
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