Tuesday, 2 November 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I am very familiar with north Leitrim. The people and the place have a special character. I absolutely support what Tony McLoughlin did, which Deputy Harkin mentioned.
There was widespread cross-party support for the ban on fracking, which came from local communities and the Love Leitrim group. That has been significant.
There is a difference. We will need base metals in the low carbon transition we are going to make. Do we decide to import them from other parts of the world which do not have the same environmental standards and regulations? I do not think that would be the right policy. We have gone through a very open public consultation process where we were open to everyone sitting down together. How do we manage that conundrum? There are clearly local concerns. I do not think saying no to any prospecting for any minerals or base metals, including gold or silver, would be the appropriate policy approach.
The Deputy mentioned a metaphor that this is like buying a driver licence. For 50 years, people have been prospecting for gold all over our country and not once has a commercial deposit been found. We have to be careful and put this matter in perspective. There is a real difference between getting a driving licence and driving a car and 50 years of prospecting which has not resulted in a commercial find. The chances of there being such a find are so remote that we should be careful not to raise concerns that might be not be based in reality. If there is a find, it is only then that we need to consider what the licensing or other conditions should be. That would happen through three planning, licensing and ministerial departmental assessments in respect of the environmental circumstances. I do not expect that to be the reality because the experience over 50 years has been that it has not happened. I do not believe it would be right or appropriate for us to close the door completely on any prospecting for base metals in our country.