JOBS are at risk at the Cavanacaw goldmine several miles outside Omagh, after blasting operations at the site had to be temporarily suspended.
Roland Phelps, president and chief executive of Galantas Gold Corporation, which operates the mine, confirmed this week that there would be a “phased reduction” of the workforce at the facility, which currently employs 50 people.
Mr Phelps said that the firm was currently in consultation with its employees, so it would be “premature” to say how many jobs would be lost.
He said, “Obviously we’re extremely disappointed for the employees and shareholders.
“Hopefully, this is a temporary matter.”
Share prices in Galantas Gold fell sharply on the London stock market this week after the firm revealed that blasting operations had been halted at the Cavanacaw site.
Announcing the “temporary suspension”, Mr Phelps said, “Blasting operations are currently limited, since all blasting must be supervised by the PSNI.
“Presently, the arrangements are not sufficient for the desired level of operations.”
But the PSNI’s district commander for Fermanagh and Omagh, Superintendent Clive Beatty, said that it was reasonable to expect a commercial venture to contribute all or part of the policing costs where it was legitimate and proportionate to do so.
He said, “There are many competing demands for PSNI resources and those demands must be prioritised in a way that maximises the safety of the public and our officers and works to counter threats, mitigate risk and alleviate harm.”
The superintendent said it would be inappropriate to comment further as discussions with Galantas and other statutory agencies were “ongoing”.
Meanwhile, Mr Phelps said that, while some mine operations would continue in Omagh, in order to reduce costs there would be a reduction in the numbers employed.
He said that his firm had been working with the relevant authorities over the last 18 months to increase blasting availability to normal levels for an underground mine.
However, as it stands, Mr Phelps said the company did not have permission to expand the blasting to meet its needs.
“We don’t have a date, it’s not in our hands. It’s with the relevant authorities to decide and I’m sure they will,” he told financial news website, Proactive.
The Galantas chief said that, in the short term, there would be a “phased reduction” of the workforce at the Omagh site. He said that the processing plant would continue to provide concentrate from the remaining underground stock at the mine, which would be shipped out to a smelter.
Speaking to the Ulster Herald, the chief executive insisted that the Cavanacaw site has “excellent possibilities”.
“I think it has some of the best potential for gold exploration in the district. I’m very keen to see that properly exploited for the benefit of employees, shareholders and the local community,” he added.