The proposed underground mine site at Curraghinalt is located in an area characterised by agricultural land, elements of woodland and areas of peat. Portions of the peat areas include blanket bog, which is classified as a priority habitat.
As part of Dalradian’s 10,000 page planning application we have conducted an extensive ecological impact assessment which provides detailed information about local animal populations and their habitats – and the potential impact the proposals may have on them. As a guiding principle, the area containing the project’s infrastructure has been made as small as possible to minimise habitat loss and infrastructure has been sited to avoid disturbance of peat habitats as much as possible. We have also proposed an Ecological Mitigation and Management Plan (subject to approval by the Department for Infrastructure) which sets out a series of measures to help ensure that overall the project produces a net gain for biodiversity. Both this plan and the ecological assessment are available to the public as part of the planning application package.
MISCONCEPTION: Mining is bad for local wildlife
FACT: As part of our ecological assessments experts have produced as detailed analysis of local wildlife. These have found that, in addition to breeding birds, the area supports other animals such as common lizards, bats, badgers,smooth newts and common frogs.
As well as appointing a dedicated Ecological Clerk of Works to help oversee the development of the gold mine and its operation, Dalradian is also proposing a number of measures to protect local animals and habitats.
One such tried and tested approach by ecologists is to compensate for the loss of any habitats by enhancing and improving similar habitat areas nearby. To this end, we have acquired lands predominantly made up of degraded bog, but also containing some marshy grassland on peat. This will be improved to support local wildlife.
Other proposed measures include:
- Creating new peatland habitat areas
- Providing new roosting sites for bats
- Providing new nesting sites for birds
- Constructing a new replacement badger sett
- Relocating common lizards, common frogs and smooth newts
- Creating new breeding ponds
The combination of these activities should enhance rather than reduce the level of biodiversity across the wider Curraghinalt area.
MISCONCEPTION: There will be insufficient protection for wildlife
FACT: The proposed measures contained within the Ecological Mitigation and Management Plan are multifaceted and extensive, with specific actions identified for specific animals. Some of these are detailed below:
Bats: There are known to be at least six species of bat living within the area. To support them we propose building a new stone bat house (8m by 5m) to replace an existing roost and improving foraging / commuting corridors by planting almost 2km of new hedgerow specifically for this purpose.
Construction work near the existing roost (within 50m) will only take place when necessary and, as required, under the guidance of a European Protected Species licence issued by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).
Badgers: Surveys conducted at the proposed infrastructure site found three active badger setts, one of which will be lost due to construction. We will seek a licence from NIEA to close this sett, but propose constructing a replacement artificial sett in compensation. This, and other setts in the area, will be monitored annually for
two years after construction work has finished.
A NIEA licence is also required for any construction activity within 30m of an active badger sett entrance, although such work will be avoided wherever possible.
Newts, Lizards and Frogs: Prior to construction work these will be captured and relocated, under appropriate NIEA licences using agreed techniques (including the use of temporary or semi-permanent reptile-proof fencing to exclude them from construction areas).
We will also create two new freshwater breeding ponds and construct at least three hibernacula (underground shelters that provide a safe space for amphibians and reptiles).
As one of the largest economic projects to be proposed for Co. Tyrone, we acknowledge that there will be some impact on local ecology. This will mainly take the form of surface disturbance, but by establishing a clear understanding of existing wildlife and their habitats we can apply tried and tested strategies to mitigate that impact.
Development and wildlife are not mutually exclusive (eg, a quarry site in Pomeroy is home to a nationally important colony of Sand Martins). By preserving, enhancing and creating new habitats, mining operations can co-exist alongside native wildlife and even support enhanced biodiversity.