A company's plan for a "small scale" gold mine in Co Mayo is running into determined opposition from groups who fear the project would damage the landscape and environment.
The controversy is shaping up into a repeat of the row which embroiled mining companies Glencar and Andaman Resources when they tried to exploit gold resources at Creggaunbaun, near Louisburgh, and Croagh Patrick in the early 1990s.
"Mayo's Gold Limited", a subsidiary of Aurum Explorations, is seeking the go-ahead for what the company describes as a "tourist gold mine" at Creggaunbaun which would primarily be involved in the manufacture of jewellery.
Mining would be carried out in an environmentally sensitive process similar to "keyhole surgery" the company promises, and Croagh Patrick would be out of bounds for the venture.
However, concern was expressed at the weekend that Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan had declared his intention to grant prospecting licences to the company in respect of 135 designated townlands.
The department's deadline for receipt of objections to the issuing of the licences is today.
Mayo County Councillor Margaret Adams says there are a lot of unanswered questions about the company's plans. Representatives should be invited to a meeting to explain their exact proposals, she said.
Westport Tourism has also discussed the company's proposals and says all its members are strongly opposed to them.
Paddy Hopkins, chairman of the Mayo Environmental Group, says the proposal will meet the same level of determined opposition as the plans by Glencar and Andaman to mine gold at Cregganbaun and Croagh Patrick did on the last occasion. "We are trying to get as many groups and individuals as possible to write to Minister Ryan opposing the granting of the prospecting licences."
In a document sent to local landowners in the Creggaunbaun area, Mayo's Gold Limited says it is offering "a completely new approach" to any potential extraction of local gold resources.
Company spokesman Tom O'Gorman said it is thought sufficient gold resources can be established to provide a sustainable development which would provide long-term employment and a unique tourism attraction in the area for 20 or more years.
The Irish Times