Over 100 protestors gathered on a bitterly cold Sunday at the Cavancaw goldmine, on the side of a mountain above Omagh. Protestors from Leitrim, Derry and Monaghan joined campaigners from Tyrone. Canadian mining company Flintridge Resources operates the Cavanacaw mine. ‘Green’ minister Eamonn Ryan intends to grant Flintridge an exploration licence in North Leitrim.
A common theme in speeches from Tyrone and Leitrim was betrayal by the mainstream parties. Leitrim speakers were particularly angry at the Green Party.
Militant Left member Anton McCabe was one of the speakers. He rubbished the argument that communities had to accept pollution in return for jobs. “No enterprise has the right to exist if it is putting the health and safety of workers and the community at risk,” he said.
The Cavanacaw mine has a controversial planning history. A small mine, initially opencast, it has produced nearly as much planning controversy as gold. The latest controversial act was to sink 44 boreholes without going through any planning process. Nine years ago, the Northern Ireland Ombusdman ruled the former Planning Service had failed to act against the company for illegally removing several hundred thousand tons of rock from the site. Planning Service was ordered to pay two local residents £30,000 each.
Campaigners fear a repeat of Cavanacaw, on a larger scale. That is because there is a planning application for a much larger goldmine at Greencastle in the Sperrins, about 18 miles away.