Campaigners against gold mining in Mid-Tyrone have been seriously worried at the appearance of spy cameras in the area, and near Strabane. The cameras were attached to telegraph poles and similar structures. There were at least seven cameras.
After Independent anti-goldmining councillor Emmet McAleer began asking questions, the cameras were swiftly removed. It is still not clear who removed them. When McAleer questioned Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, it said planning was not sought, let alone granted, for the cameras. In response to his question, police sought information on the location of the devices to investigate if any offence had been committed. BT denied any involvement.
The Crown Estate then said the cameras were part of a traffic survey. This, the Estate said, is in connection with a planning application by Northern Ireland Electricity Network for a 40 kilometre power line. This power line would serve the proposed mine at Greencastle.
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act requires specific authorisation for such cameras. This is because the gathering of data could infringe human rights. As yet, we do not know whether the cameras complied with the Act.
Before the incidents with the cameras, campaigners in Mid-Tyrone were already concerned at what they saw surveillance by mine security guards. Some security guards employed at the mine have had experience guarding mines in Third World Countries. Campaigners are also concerned at heavy-handed policing of objectors.
McAleer voiced said the community was already under stress, fearing major pollution from the mine. “Valid questions remain as to who instructed the installation of these cameras, with what relevant legal of planning permission, what detail/information has been gathered and storied, and by whom?” he said.
“It is worrying that, to date, none of the statutory bodies contacted appear to know anything about these spy cameras.”