The Department of the Environment is considering what action to take with the Corrib gas developers, following an admission by Shell consultants that they drilled in a special area of conservation (SAC) in north Mayo without the appropriate consent.
The consultants have also conceded they did not consult the National Parks and Wildlife Service before drilling boreholes in the Glenamoy bog complex special area of conservation.
They have said the "oversight" was due to "miscommunication", both within their own company and Shell E&P Ireland.
A Department of Environment spokesman said that an expert had been sent to assess whether the SAC had been damaged. It would decide what action to take.
Under the European Communities (Natural Habitats) Regulations 1997, the Minister for the Environment must authorise any such work in a special area of conservation by written consent, and contravention of this "without reasonable excuse" is described as an "offence" in the legislation.
The borehole drilling was being carried out by RPS Consultants, which had been hired by Shell E&P Ireland to select a modified route for the Corrib gas onshore pipeline.
Six weeks ago, a solidarity camp on the same site at Glengad was directed by court order to be dismantled by January 1st.
In a statement to The Irish Times , RPS Consultants said: "We are aware that in order to carry out such activities within a SAC, permission needs to be granted by the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government and we are currently in discussion with them."
The Irish Times