ROBUST exchanges between environmental protesters, Save Our Sperrins (SOS) and Canadian goldmining company, Dalradian, have escalated this week following a series of incidents over the past few days which culminated in one protester chaining himself to a drill rig on the company's land outside Rouskey.
Indeed it's been quite a week on the goldmining front in the Sperrins with a number of incidents grabbing the headlines including Sinn Féin deputy leader, Michelle O’Neill, meeting Dalradian to reiterate the party’s opposition to the proposal, DUP MLA, Thomas Buchanan, urging everyone to allow the processes to be go through its official stages and the Department for Infrastructure confirming that the number of objections to Dalradian's plans had reached 12,000.
Chairman of the Save Our Sperrins group, Cormac McAleer, made his way on to the rig at the Camcosy Road on Saturday morning and remained there until 7pm that evening despite interventions from Dalradian staff and the PSNI, both of which proved unsuccessful.
Dalradian reacted angrily to this latest incident. In a statement it said an individual trespassed on its drilling site on Saturday by climbing over protective fencing and attached himself to one of the company’s exploratory drill rigs.
"For a number of hours this prevented employees from carrying out licensed and lawful company business," a spokesman said.
He added there was no justification for not allowing their employees to do their job and people who wanted to oppose them should do so through the proper channels and the planning process.
The spokesman added: “This is the latest example in a series of escalating incidents which have included trespass, intimidation, harassment, criminal damage and verbal abuse directed at employees, contractors and Northern Ireland Environment Agency staff.
“Dalradian’s activities are lawful and we operate under an Exploration Licence granted by the relevant authorities in line with the policies of the NI Executive.