Northern Ireland Executive Economy Minister Nigel Dodds has annouced a three year extension to the moratorium on lignite prospecting across the whole of Northern Ireland. Read the whole story here.
From the Ballymoney Times. A leading polititian plans to harness the powers of the new Assembly to kill off the threat of lignite mining in North Antrim. MLA Mervyn Storey wants to “remove forvever the shadow being cast by the threat of proposed mining”.
Speaking at the AGM of COLD "Collective Objectors to Lignite Development" in Bushvale Presbyterian Church Hall the DUP MLA said:
Ballymoney Council's Lignite Committee is in co-operation with representatives from the Just Say No Campaign. Both groups have discussed the present position regarding lignite development and in particular the proposed protection and extension of the lignite area in the Northern Area Plan.
The Council has placed significance on the issue by establishing a lignite committee and put on record its opposition to lignite mining for power generation, believing it to be unecessary and contrary to policies encouraging the use of renewable sources of energy.
Mr. Storey says this is a strong argument and must be seriously considered in light of the poor record Northern Ireland has in its ability to go green. He added:
Campaigners were not surprised at Ballymoney Power's announcement yesterday that their write-down of the lignite project would be making no difference to their plans for the opencast coalmine and power station.
“If anything, the fact that the company is having financial problems could mean that they are even more determined to have their plan approved”, says one Just Say No campaign worker. “Getting this plan passed could be really essential for the Australian company's survival”.
While the newspapers speculated that Ballymoney Power may have tried to deflect attention from their plan by announcing the write-down, accountants in the campaign headquarters had already warned the campaign workers that the plan was still live.
“It's business as usual, and will be until this plan is turned down once and for all”, said Gerry Doran at the campaign office.
Less than two weeks later, Ballymoney Power announced that its plan was still very much alive. They admitted that they had instructed the Planning Services in Belfast to push their file through as quickly as legally possible. In an interview with the Daily Mirror (July 8, 2003), a spokesperson for Ballymoney Power said :
“I can confirm that out application is live. People have been confusing our plc requirements as a business with our planning process. If people chose to be stupid then good luck to them.”
In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph on the same day, Walter McClay (Project Director, Ballymoney Power) said :
“At Ballymoney Power nothing has changed, there has been no U-turn because we never said we had withdrawn our application.“
In a letter to the stock exchange in June 2003, Auiron Energy, Ballymoney Power's parent company, announced that it was curtailing future expenditure on the project because it could not find the partner necessary to develop the mine and power station.
At that time, Campaign spokesperson, Mr Gerry Doran, commented, “We take encouragement from today's announcement. It reinforces our belief that this project is completely untenable and must not go ahead. However, our campaign was set up not to fight Ballymoney Power but to ensure that this threat of rural destruction is ended permanently. We will not cease in our efforts until this planning application has been rejected and the mining license revoked. The fight goes on.”
The campaigners against the plans to establish a lignite mine and power station in Ballymoney are taking their campaign to Dublin in order to press their case with the Irish Government and members of all the main parties in the Dail. The visit is scheduled for Tuesday 17 June and is being facilitated by SDLP North Antrim representative Sean Farren. Just Say No Spokesman Gerry Doran explained the rationale behind the trip:
“The proposal by Ballymoney Power is the single biggest planning application ever in Northern Ireland. The scale of what they intend to build in North Antrim is the equivalent of 4,000 full size soccer pitches. We believe that the emissions from the power station will impact on the health of people right across Northern Ireland and indeed in the Republic of Ireland also. It is important that the political system in the Republic is aware of the danger behind these plans.
“Another reason for our trip south is that the Dublin Government are an official consultee on this matter. We want to make sure that parties in the South, and the Minister for the Environment in particular, are fully aware of the potential hazards emanting from these plans and also of the total and outright opposition which exists locally.”
Sean Farren, former Finance Minister in the Northern Ireland Executive said he hoped to raise awareness levels among his political colleagues in Dail Eireann.
“The plans for the lignite mine and power station could directly affect the residents of the Republic of Ireland, certainly in Donegal and even further afield. As a political representative in North Antrim we have a responsibility of ensuring that the political system in the South is fully aware of the dangers behind this proposal.“
The delegation will meet with Senators and TDs from Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour Party and the Greens. A number of TDs in attendance are from Donegal. The Just Say No delegation will also present Republic of Ireland Environment Minister Martin Cullen with a copy of their document which outlines the opposition to the proposal. They will also meet with an official from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Notes to Editor:
The delegation will gather at Central Station in Belfast at 7.30am next Tuesday 17 June before boarding the 8.00am train. They will be available for photographs before leaving for Dublin. The meetings will begin in Leinster House at 12.30pm on Tuesday. The party will return on an evening train.
Just Say No, the cross community campaign established to fight open cast lignite mining in County Antrim has slammed claims made by Ballymoney Power spokesperson Walter McClay in yesterday's Belfast Telegraph. Mr McClay claimed that in areas affected by lignite mining in Germany, many more people support the activity than oppose it.
Gerry Doran, a spokesperson for Just Say No who has recently returned from a fact finding trip to Germany's Rhineland commented, “If Walter McClay or anyone else in Ballymoney Power think there is significant public support for the rural destruction that is going on in parts of Germany, they're living in cloud cuckoo land.
“I suspect however that not even they believe this claim - I suspect that this is just another example of Ballymoney Power riding roughshod over the consultation process, trying to paint our legitimate campaign as the work of witless country folk. They have tried this many times in the past and have consistently failed.”
“The message coming back from Germany is one of communities being destroyed and large areas of countryside being irrevocably damaged. People who have seen their homeland ravaged look on with horror at the prospect of the same mistakes being repeated here.
“Of course Mr McClay would have seen this for himself had he attended the recent information evening in Ballymoney. But in this instance, as in many others, Ballymoney Power's actions suggest that they see 'community consultation' as little more than a phrase in a glossy PR brochure.”
“Let Ballymoney Power back up their claims by bringing these supporters to a public meeting where they can put their side of the story- we will welcome their contribution to the debate. However, we know this isn't going to happen - Ballymoney Power continues to run away from the truth.”
Just Say No brought a community leader from the Rhineland, Frau Gisela Irving (67) to share her experience of lignite meeting with a meeting of over 1,000 people in the Roseyard Church Hall. BBC Northern Ireland's Spotlight programme travelled with Just Say No to Germany and aired a documentary on lignite mining on Tuesday 13th May.
Just Say No, the cross community campaign established to fight open cast lignite mining in county Antrim travelled to Germany today to see at first hand the environmental and health problem associated with similar projects.
Gerry Doran, a spokesperson for the group will travel to Inden in Northwest Rhineland to meet with residents whose lives have been impacted by the open cast lignite mine there. He will also have discussions with environmental and health experts from the region. He will be accompanied on his fact finding journey by a television crew from BBC Northern Ireland.
Speaking to supporters on his departure, the local father of two commented, “Now that the Planning Service has received an record number of objections to the lignite proposals, it is important that we maintain momentum. I am travelling to Germany to see at first hand the devastation caused by open cast lignite mining and by doing so expose the lie that European regulation automatically equals environmental responsibility.
“Ballymoney Power and its Australian parent regularly accuse us of scaremongering - they've gone so far as to claim that nowadays lignite mining can actually be 'a tourist facility'! I'm here to highlight the absurdity of their claims and wake all of Northern Ireland to the threat we face.”
Mr Doran will return to Northern Ireland with a resident from the German mining area in time for a Public Meeting on Monday 5th May in Roseyards Hall outside Ballymoney. He will also use the meeting to present the key findings from his trip.
Chairman of the campaign, Mr Joe Patton CBE, also used Mr Doran's departure to reiterate his calls on Ballymoney Power to abandon their plans. He said, “The Just Say No campaign has systematically and successfully refuted almost all of the claims of these so-called developers. Their constant defence is that European regulation means our fears of rural destruction are unfounded. We're confident that our visit to Rhineland - in the heart of Germany - will expose these claims as yet more 'Aussie spin'.”
A BBC Northern Ireland television crew is accompanying the Just Say No campaign in Germany as part of an upcoming documentary on the proposals.
As the Ballymoney Power consultation roadshow packed their bags and left Ballymoney Town Hall today, the words of the Just Say No campaigners were still ringing in their ears: “We were not taken in by spin.” Campaign chairman Joe Patton declared:
“The so called consultation exercise by AuIron was a waste of their money and our time. No amount of slick spin doctoring from the international money men is going to pull the wool over the eyes of the people of Northern Ireland.
“There were heated exchanges in the Town Hall over the last three days because people are very angry at the arrogance of these people. They say they're here to listen - if that is the case, they can be in absolutely no doubt that this project is a non-runner.
“People are incensed and deeply offended that AuIron choose to paint Ballymoney as an economic blackspot. The fact is that our unemployment rate is less than 2.5% - Ballymoney has the fourth lowest unemployment in Northern Ireland. We want sustainable economic development, but what these people are talking about is short-term gain for AuIron's shareholders and long-term term pain for Northern Ireland. The charade in the Town Hall was a case of AuIron bending the facts to suit their needs.
“Uniquely, we have support from all shades of political opinion, from all members of the community and from all parts of Northern Ireland. AuIron should do everybody a favour and declare that they are pulling out of here for good.”
North Antrim MLA Sean Farren has said the SDLP supports the campaign against the proposals to establish an Open Cast Mine and Power Station in Ballymoney. The campaign against the mine was launched today under the “Just Say No” name.
Sean Farren also criticised the remarks made about Ballymoney by Mr Walter McClay, the representative of Ballymoney Power, a wholly owned subsidiary of Australian mining company, AuIron. Mr McClay said at the weekend that Ballymoney was a “notorious unemployment blackspot” and that the mine would bring in tourists to Ballymoney. Sean Farren said:
“The remarks of the Ballymoney Power representative are disappointing and they show that the company has a very poor understanding of the area in which they hope to develop an open mine. The company has described Ballymoney as a 'notorious unemployment black spot' when in fact this area has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Northern Ireland. That is a tribute to the local people who have worked very hard to create a business culture in the area. Such misrepresentation makes it appear that Ballymoney Power seem willing to distort figures to suit their plans.
“Ballymoney requires more investment and more economic development. However the investment on offer from Ballymoney power is entirely at odds with the wishes of local people, it is in direct contradiction to the policies promoted by the Assembly and it is simply not wanted here. We need sustainable economic development rather than long term damage to the landscape and heritage of Ballymoney.
“Ballymoney Power would do well to listen to what the people are saying and set aside their plans. I fear their proposals would only have a detrimental impact in the whole North Antrim area.”
The DUP Assembly team today backed DUP leader Dr.Ian Paisley in his call for a full public enquiry into plans for a lignite mine in Ballymoney.
In a statement issued Assembly Members representing the entire province stated, “We are concerned by plans to develop a lignite mine and power station in Ballymoney. It is without doubt that such a mine will have far reaching consequences beyond North Antrim. The DUP Assembly team believes such a development would impact on the entire province environmentally, socially and economically.
“It is essential that a full blown public enquiry into this application takes place. We believe that without such an enquiry the people of Northern Ireland would be denied a proper say in a matter that would affect the entire province.
“Lignite mining offers very little to the people of Ballymoney other than pollution and rural destruction. The DUP backs the efforts of the 'Just Say No Campaign' and encourages the Minister, Angela Smith MP, to receive a delegation representing this group led by North Antrim MP Dr Ian Paisley.”
The campaign by local residents opposed to plans to mine lignite near Ballymoney Co. Antrim was officially launched this week by local schoolchildren today under the banner “Just Say No”.
Ballymoney Power, a wholly owned subsidiary of Australian mining company, Auiron, has submitted a planning application to build a massive open cast mine and power station beside the historic town. The plans are vehemently opposed by local people, health experts, leading environmentalists and by all political representatives.
Chairman of the Just Say No campaign Mr Joe Patton said at today's launch:
“There is outright opposition to the plans by this Australian mining company to destroy Ballymoney. Local feelings are running very high and we are united in our opposition. We are united in this campaign. Everyone is opposed - from schoolchildren to parents and people from all sides of the community.
“People are concerned that if this plan goes ahead people's health will suffer not just in Ballymoney or even in Co Antrim but throughout Northern Ireland. There are genuinely held health concerns which the company should not cynically dismiss.
“Ballmoney Power have insulted the people of this area with their public comments. They have described Ballymoney as a “economic black spot”. Our town is not a black spot - it is an area of natural beauty. People in County Antrim are entitled to sustainable economic development not rural destruction.
“The message of our campaign is very clear. We are against this project and we will always be against it. No international money man is going to change that.”
Notes to Editor:
The planning application for a lignite mine in Ballymoney has been made by Ballymoney Power, a wholly owned subsidiary of Auiron.
Mr Walter McClay has described Ballymoney as being a “notorious unemployment black spot”. According to DETI figures unemployment in Ballymoney is running at 2.2 % of the working age population. A total of 376 are out of work in Ballymoney. Ballymoney is the 4th lowest rate of unemployment among the 26 district council areas in Northern Ireland.
Speaking to bankers and investors in Sydney last year, Managing Director of Auiron commented: “The Ballymoney project has the potential to add to the wealth of shareholders and deserves continued support.”
The “hole” caused by the mining will be more than 75m deep and the total size of the mine is intended to be 20 sq. km. In typical circumstances, the massive 'holes' left by open cast mining are sold off as landfill sites.
The residents have staged 5 public meetings so far with more planned for coming days and weeks.
Residents opposed to plans to mine lignite near Ballymoney Co. Antrim have vowed to stage the “fight of their lives“ in the campaign against the proposals. Ballymoney Power, a subsidiary of Australian mining company, Auiron, has submitted a planning application to build a massive open cast mine and power station beside the historic town. The plans are vehemently opposed by local people, health experts, leading environmentalists and by all political representatives.
Spokesman for the community campaign Mr Joe Patton said this weekend:
“There is massive opposition to the plans by this Australian mining company to destroy a beautiful part of the world and pollute the people who live here. I have never known local feeling to run as high on any other issue in the past.
“There have already been a number of public meetings throughout County Antrim and before the campaign is over we plan to take our opposition directly to the headquarters of the planning service in Belfast.
“Our homes and our health are not for sale. People in County Antrim want economic development not rural destruction. We want a legacy for our children, not an industry that threatens their health. This is a grass- roots campaign, made up of people who want what is best for this area. We stand in stark contrast to the developers - an Australian money making machine which has already admitted it is only interested in more profits for shareholders.
“We have the support of all local politicians and we are grateful for that. However we will be asking all parties as well as rural interest groups to join us by signing a pledge of support for our campaign against open cast lignite mining, against rural destruction, against the plunder of Northern Ireland's countryside . There is nothing we support in these proposals. They simply represent short term gain for the moneymen and long term pain for County Antrim.”
Notes to Editor:
The planning application for a lignite mine in Ballymoney has been made by Ballymoney Power, a wholly owned subsidiary of Auiron.
The residents have staged 3 public meetings, with three more planned for coming days and weeks. The most recent meeting in Loughgiel on 27 February was attended by more than 500 people. Reaction was unanimously against the planning application.
The “Just Say No” campaign, bringing together opinion from across the board in Northern Ireland will be officially launched next week.
The UK Government last week launched the Energy White Paper which set targets for use of renewable energy of 10% by 2010 and 20% by 2020. The paper targets a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 60% by 2050. Lignite mining is a non-renewable and highly inefficient energy source.
Use of renewable energy is increasing in Northern Ireland. Leading renewable energy company 'Airtricity' has predicted that all of Northern Ireland's energy requirements could be met from renewable sources by 2050.