As the saying goes, “All that glitters is not gold.” The irony is that that it turns out that, when you become aware of its impact on people and place, there’s a deeper truth about gold as well. Yet despite talk of “sustainable development” much of what is planned and promised in the local Assembly’s Programme for Government will be toxic to both land and people. Why?
In the county that plays host to the biggest know illegal dump in Europe we are facing legal developments that could usher in even greater environmental disasters. These disasters are poised to unfold on our doorstep, if not resisted.
This event will explore those threats and the economic/political context that facilitates them. It will do this by focusing on two aspects. Plans for major gold mining development in the Sperrins and the rapid development of industrial scale farming across Northern Ireland.
A good example of the latter is the proposed Limavady Pig Factory Farm. This £12 million factory farm has been designed to accommodate 2,500 sows that will produce over 80,000 pigs and 20,000 tonnes of slurry per annum. Pig feeds will be imported and the finished pigs will be exported and we’ll be left with the pig slurry. In 2017 the Nothern Ireland Environment Agency stated that critical levels of Ammonia have been exceeded at 95% of designated sites (protected by European law) in NI. 46% of rivers and 58% of lakes failed water quality standards in 2016. Ammonia emissions are 4 times higher in NI than in GB or ROI. 91% of Ammonia emissions in 2015 in NI were from Agriculture.
The public would know little about these developments without the local campaigns mobilised to protect the land and people from their consequences.
To facilitate gold mining in the Sperrins Dalradian Gold NI has submitted a 10,000 page planning application for a cyanide based ore-processing plant in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Its local rivers within the River Foyle & Tributaries Special Area of Conservation. This signals the intention of this local arm of the Canadian Dalradian mining corporation to move from exploration to a full-blown mining operation of 25 years.
Gold mining creates massive amounts of toxic waste containing dangerous chemicals. Blasting and crushing of bedrock releases hazardous dust particles into the air containing a variety of heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury, etc. This is both a health hazard and destroys the agricultural use of land surrounding the mine. In addition to contaminating drinking water, byproducts such as mercury and heavy metals can work their way into the food chain and sicken people and animals for generations.
Fidelma O’Kane is a member of Save Our Sperrins and the mother of four grown up sons. She is active in a number of voluntary and community organisations. She is a retired lecturer and was formerly a social worker.
“Most of the actual mining on this planet … is done by very large, wealthy and powerful multinational corporations that straddle the planet with spidery webs of subsidiaries that do a lot of shape-shifting, making it difficult to seek justice or costs when a mining operation results in human rights abuses, environmental disasters, and even death.” Joan Baxter, award winning Nova Scotia journalist.
James Orr (Director of Friends Of The Earth NI) will address the threat posed by industrial scale farming and place it in the context of others contained in the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Programme for Government and its inadequate environmental regulatory system.
The event will be chaired by Judi Logue of Zero Waste North West (ZWNW). Judi has been both Chair and Vice Chair of Zero Waste North West which formed in 2013 to oppose Derry City Councils plans at that time to contract with other councils of the North West Regional Management Group to supply its waste to a gasification facility (waste incineration) to be sited at Campsie. Their opposition to incineration was framed in being for zero waste. Just before Christmas Derry City & Strabane District Council (DCSDC) adopted a Zero Waste/Circular Economy Strategy for their council region, the fruit of a two year collaboration between DCSDC, Judi and the rest of the ZWNW team.