A campaign against applications for two mining licences in Connemara has gathered pace over the summer, with representatives of the group meeting with MEP Luke Flanagan and the European Commission. 

The licences – for areas in Leenane, Maam, and Recess; and in Ballyconneely and Roundstone – permit prospecting only. However, the oppostition group Protect Connemara believes that the granting of such licences indicates governmental approval for these areas as being suitable for mining. This view has been echoed by An Taisce, which has also stated its opposition to the licences. 

At time of writing, 9,945 people had signed a Change.org petition started by local woman Alannah Robins to protest to Galway West TDs against the plans. Another petition, to Communications, Climate Action, and Environment Minister Richard Bruton, can be found on the group’s Facebook page and may be signed and returned until this Thursday (September 5). 

In Maam, a committee has been set up by Niall Joyce to keep mining out of Joyce county. Canadian mining company BTU is seeking the renewal of three mining prospecting licences in the Maam valley and Cor na Móna. The firm also plans to apply for exploration licences in Leenane, the Inagh Valley, and Lough na Fooey. The licences cover prospecting for base metals, gold, and silver. 

A spokesperson for the group said: ‘At a well-attended meeting at Maam community centre on July 24, people living in the area expressed opposition to this exploration. Not one person present spoke in favour of prospecting. Many spoke of how there were increasing restrictions on activities like turf cutting in these sensitive areas and were surprised that mining could even be considered in such areas of exceptional scenic beauty and environmental importance.’

For areas around Ballyconneely, Minister Richard Bruton TD has served a notice of intent to grant a mineral prospecting licence to another Canadian mining company, MOAG Copper Gold Resources. The Protect Connemara committee – Catherine McEvoy, Alexine Tinne, Terri Conroy and Aine Ni Cheannabhain – have contacted local and national politicians, featured in national media, and travelled to Brussels with MEP Luke Flanagan to meet with the European Commission. 

The group stated: ‘We have registered our objection on the grounds of threats to the health and wellbeing of the natural environment and that of the local community. Mining is a process that is hugely destructive to land, water and air and to all who require these for their continued healthy existence.

‘In this era of climate emergency and rapid species loss, the granting of licences to prospect is very much a step in the wrong direction. It is at odds with the responsibilities of this government at this crucial time for the planet and all that live on it.’

Exploration for molybdenum, copper, and silver would take place in Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and proposed Natural Heritage Areas (pNHAs) including Murvey Machair, Connemara Bog Complex, and Dogs Bay. It is on these grounds that An Taisce has voiced its objection to the licence. The heritage body furthermore called the licence application process ‘inadequate’ in the public consultation process, the information provided as to the nature and extent of the exploration activity which the application would allow, and what minerals are being explored for.  

Ian Lumley, An Taisce advocacy officer, said: ‘The granting of an exploration licence is a de facto acceptance by the State of the suitability of the area for mining extraction. 

‘It clearly confers an expectation by the licensee […] that the State supports development in mining in the location identified, and that any mining licence application will be treated favourably by the State and subject only to regulatory process.’

To support the campaign, visit protectconnemara.com