Northern Ireland

Sperrins gold mine: Campaigner 'shocked' by arrest

Gold mine proposal Image copyright Dalradian
Image caption An artist's impression of the gold mine site would look like

A campaigner detained near a controversial gold mine in County Tyrone on Wednesday has said he was "shocked and startled" by his arrest.

Cormac McAleer is a member of the Save Our Sperrins campaign group.

He was arrested on suspicion of obstructing a highway and resisting police and released on Wednesday night.

Mining company Dalradian wants to open the gold mine in Camcosy Road, Gortin, but campaigners have opposed this and raised a number of concerns.

Dalradian said the incident which Mr McAleer was arrested in connection with was an "unnecessary development that disrupted the community".

Mr McAleer said he was not protesting at the time of his arrest, but was on his way to the site when he met a Dalradian lorry coming the other way.

He said police said they were arresting him for parking in the middle of the road.

"I was shocked and amazed and startled by the waste of police time for arresting me when the lorry driver could easily have reversed," Mr McAleer said.

"People who were passing by, including Dalradian security, were trying to encourage him to reverse the lorry.

"I was on my way over to Curraghinalt, I wasn't protesting at the time. I was just driving over there, I didn't know this lorry was on the road, I just met the lorry.

"It's a very narrow road and I couldn't get past the vehicle."

Image copyright Save our Sperrins
Image caption Cormac McAleer campaigns against the mine

He said the previous day he had been on the road and reversed to let another vehicle past and had ended up partially in a ditch.

Mr McAleer said at one stage he "ended up on his back" during Wednesday's incident and was told by police he would be charged with resisting arrest as well.

He was released pending a report being sent to the Public Prosecution Service by the PSNI.

The campaigner said the arrest would not put him off protesting.

"I'm up my way up there now to Curraghinalt," he said.

"We want to just reinforce that the protest is very much on, given our disappointment with the agencies who are supposed to be protecting the river. Unfortunately the people need to take a stand."

'Hundreds of jobs'

Dalradian said there are up to £3bn worth of deposits in the area at Curraghinalt near Greencastle in the Sperrins.

A spokesperson for the company said the disruption at the weekend had been the first interference in its exploratory drilling programme since 2010.

"This was an unnecessary development that disrupted the community and interfered with local employees and contractors who are simply trying to do their job," the spokesperson said.

"We have an open door policy and are happy to speak to anyone, but unfortunately there are some who do not want to engage.

"So far over 1,400 people have taken a 'tunnel tour' to find out more about our existing operations."

The company said all of its activities are "lawful and we operate under an Exploration Licence granted by the relevant authorities in line with the policies of the NI Executive".

It also said that the 25-year mine operation will create hundreds of jobs and provide a £750m boost to the Northern Ireland economy.

Campaigners are unhappy about the use of cyanide in the extraction process.

They also object to the plan to dispose of large quantities of crushed rock by contouring it to the landscape and over-planting with vegetation.

On Saturday, there was a separate incident in which a man chained himself to a drill before leaving the site voluntarily after being spoken to by police.

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