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Northern Ireland controversy shows why it's getting harder to mine gold

Section: Daily Dispatches

By Chris Baraniuk
British Broadcasting Co., London
Tuesday, October 27, 2020

For a thousand days, the caravan stood with banners and placards pinned to its side: "We are not afraid. This is our land. This is our home. We will die for it." Irish flags flutter in the wind. This is the anti-gold mine protest site set up by a group of locals in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.

With 460 million-year-old veins of gold strewn hither and thither in the rock deep underfoot, the prospect of a mine in Curraghinalt, in a remote corner of the Sperrin mountains, has been talked about for decades -- but it has never yet materialised. A recent application by a mining company to extract the seams of precious metal has brought the prospect closer still. If it is successful, the firm says, it could bring new jobs and money to the area.

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But many here want to keep things the way they are.

"I devote all my time to this campaign. I just feel it's our future," says Fidelma O'Kane, a retired social worker and lecturer who is concerned about the potential environmental impacts of the mine.

"My main worry is that the water will be poisoned, the air will be poisoned, the land will be contaminated -- and ultimately people's health will suffer," she adds, explaining that she would never accept a mine of any kind in this area.

The company hoping to extract precious metals here, Dalradian Gold, says it has put in place a swathe of environmental safeguards and promises several economic benefits for locals. Still, the online planning proposal for the mine has attracted tens of thousands of comments, mostly negative, and a public inquiry will now take place to decide what will happen next. ...

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