A MAJOR environmental battle is looming over plans to open Scotland’s first gold mine within a national park.
Owners of the Cononish mine, near Tyndrum, expect to extract up to 73,000 tonnes of ore per year for a decade to cash in on demand for the precious metal, which has soared in price over the last two years.
But the plan has been dealt a major blow by a formal objection from Scottish Natural Heritage, the government’s countryside adviser, which says that the mine will damage the surrounding landscape.
Well, that’s a shame, but the countryside is not a museum. People live and work there, or try to work there.
At least four other environment bodies – including the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) – have also raised concerns about the plan because of the potential risk to the protected Loch Lomond and The Trossachs Park area.
There was no real environmental need to turn these areas of Scotland into national parks in the first place. It was probably a good idea to encourage tourists to the area, but so is a goldmine with its inevitable shop.
SNH is also concerned about possible harm to salmon in the River Tay, one of Scotland’s prime angling rivers, from sediment leaking out of the mine workings into tributaries.
The application to open the mine has been lodged by Scotgold Resources Limited, which has carried out tests confirming the presence of gold at the Cononish site, two miles west of Tyndrum.
If permission is granted, mining will take place between 7am and 11pm six days a week. As well as underground workings, Scotgold intends to construct a service and production building, a storage area, pond, access roads, a bridge and a car park. It also wants to divert a nearby burn.
But a report for the SNH board says the mine would have “a major adverse impact on landscape character” during its construction and operation. It would also substantially increase the amount of disturbance and manmade infrastructure in a “sensitive open upland landscape”.
In other words, people will see building work in progress, followed by signs of very small-scale industrial activity. In Scotland? How awful.
A natural gorge would be lost due to diverting the burn, and the setting of the Eas Anie waterfall would be affected.
Darren Hemsley, the SNH area officer, said the local plan for the national park spells out that support will be given to proposals to reopen old mineral sites only if “there will be no adverse effect on the park’s special qualities”.
And employment for local people clearly isn’t considered a special quality. No, the rights of local people were signed away. And notice how these pen-pushers are known as officers. It is important for the state to get the terminology right so that we proles know our place.
Scotgold says the mine will create up to 50 jobs and bring around £1.5 million annually to the area. Support has come from Strathfillan Community Council on the grounds that the mine would support the “flagging economy”.
But Hemsley said SNH had concluded that the potential economic benefits to the local economy were “not of national or regional significance”.
Just local significance. Why does this not matter to them?
Sepa is concerned that the diversion of the burn could cause a flood risk, while RSPB Scotland says mining activity could affect peregrine falcons nesting nearby. The Scottish Campaign for National Parks and the Friends of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs have also raised concerns.
Robert Maund, chairman of the Scottish Campaign for National Parks, said the mine would “industrialise” the park. It would be built next to Scotland’s most popular long-distance route, the West Highland Way, which attracts up to 50,000 walkers every year.
And a small goldmine would put them off? They can’t be very keen walkers.
The park board will meet in June to decide on whether to allow the mine to go ahead. Members must reconcile dual aims set out in the legislation under which the park was created, which says that the authority has a duty to both conserve the natural heritage of the area and to promote economic development.
Ah-ha, so they have a duty to promote economic development.
Chris Sangster, Scotgold chief executive, said he was in the process of responding to concerns among organisations that had objected.
That should take a while as there seems to be a lot of organisations, mostly tax-payer funded by the looks of it.
Here we see, yet again, how our overbearing state with its vast army of jobsworths can gang up on people trying to make an honest living. I have emphasised some words used in this article: potential, possible and a couple of coulds.
It sounds like they are struggling to come up with real evidence of impending ecological disaster if a small mine is opened for ten years.
Imagine if the ‘authorities’ in California decided in 1849 that, actually, the scenery was rather nice and no mining was allowed. San Francisco would still be a fishing village. Or if the vast number of coalmines which dominated the landscape of parts of Britain had never been operational, which would have been the case if the state had been as intrusive in the 18th Century.
The Industrial Revolution would never have happened. Well, it would have, but in a country which wasn’t governed by quangos, fake charities and other assorted ne’er-do-wells who pick up nice salaries for no discernable benefit to anyone. The tourism of north Wales and Cornwall depends to an extent on its former slate and tin mines. Why are disused mining works blotting the landscape celebrated there, yet an operational one in Scotland is envisaged as a horror? It seems to be the in-thing to be proud of our industrial heritage, while importing and outsourcing as much as possible, to the obvious detriment of the whole country.
Yes, there’s gold in them thar hills, but just leave it there and keep fifty local people on the dole in case the sight of some new buildings upsets a hiker or a couple of falcons object and move somewhere else.
Only in Britain.