Leitrim county councillors have unanimously backed a motion calling on Environment, Climate and Communications Minister Eamon Ryan not to proceed with the granting of a gold and silver prospecting licence in the north of the county.
Speaking after elected representatives from all parties supported a call on the Minister not to proceed with his stated intention of granting the licence to Omagh-based company Flintridge Resources, campaigners said Mr Ryan now had to decide whether he stood with the people or with the mining company.
Jamie Murphy of the recently formed Treasure Leitrim group said that while people only learned of the proposal a few weeks ago, there had been an outpouring of support for the campaign.
“The support has been inspiring . People have been signing petitions at local marts, in GAA clubs, in active age groups and in local shops”. He said 2,000 people had objected to the prospecting licence so far.
“It shows how a community can come together. This is a very strong message to Eamon Ryan and the Department . The Minister is under no obligation to issue a prospecting license to Flintridge Resources”.
Members of the pubic have until November 7th to lodge objections after Minister Ryan issued a notice signalling his intention to grant a gold and silver prospecting licence to Flintridge whose parent company Galantas Gold is based in Toronto.
Fianna Fáil councillor Mary Bohan who proposed the motion at Monday’s monthly meeting of the county council said it was “unbelievable” when the world’s attention was focussed on the COP 26 summit in Glasgow, that the Green Party Minister for the Environment would consider granting such a licence.
“We as a community and a council have done so much to attract tourism with greenways and blueways, we certainly do not want this to happen. This is an area of outstanding natural beauty . A lot of Leitrim people want to move back here but they certainly won’t if this goes ahead”.
Sinn Féin councillor Padraig Fallon who seconded the motion said at a time when communities were being “bombarded” with messages about carbon emissions, it was ironic that this was being contemplated by Minister Ryan.
“Rural dwellers are being told not to burn turf or wood and yet they would consider something like this which will be of absolutely no benefit to the community or indeed to the country,” he said.
Local science teacher and farmer James Gilmartin said there was a fear that “once a mining company gets their toe inside the door” the State would have certain obligations towards them.
“It’s crazy to think that in the current climate in the middle of a biodiversity crisis that anyone would even contemplate entertaining an extractive carbon-heavy industry like mining,” said Mr Gilmartin .
The farmer whose land is in the targeted area said : “This is not about being anti-anything. We are for the community , for the people of the community and for farming and we are mindful that we need to protect this land for the next generation”.
Mr Gilmartin said his 90 year old father , also James, was still farming , having spent his life trying to improve the land and he too was very concerned about the proposal.
He said as farmers they were involved in a number of biodiversity projects on nearby Benbo mountain where they “graze holistically” to try and protect different species.
“I am probably one of the land owners that would benefit financially as our land has been mentioned in the studies but what we have to do is preserve the land,” he added.
The Department of Environment, Climate and Communications has said that a prospecting licence would not confer any right to mine.