Published Monday, 11 August 2014
The Department of the Environment had received notification last month from Australian Mining Company Tamboran of their intention to drill a core of rock from Cleggan Quarry, Belcoo.
A statement from the department said that the firm had sought confirmation that the work could be carried out under current permitted development rights without the need for full planning permission as part of their ongoing exploration into the viability of extracting shale gas by fracking.
However, the Minister has ruled against this.
Minister Durkan said: "I have given very careful consideration to Tamboran's proposal to drill a core of rock from Cleggan Quarry near Belcoo and whether this is permitted development under current legislation. I have concluded that this is Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) development requiring full planning permission and that permitted development rights do not apply.
"In making this assessment I have been mindful of my Department's responsibility to ensure that the environment is protected at all times and that full consideration is given to any likely significant environmental impacts of such a proposal."
The SDLP minister added: "I have concerns that this is an existing quarry where unauthorised extraction has taken place. I believe there is insufficient information to establish what environmental impacts may have already arisen as a result of these unauthorised activities.
"Therefore, it is not possible to assess the environmental impact of the drilling cumulatively with other unknown environmental impacts of unregulated activity. "
"In arriving at this decision I believe I must proceed on the basis of a precautionary principle. This principle establishes that a risk exists if it cannot be excluded on the basis of objective information and in the case of doubt as to the absence of significant effects then a full Environmental Assessment should be carried out.
"I have therefore concluded this is EIA development requiring full planning permission with an accompanying Environmental Statement and current permitted development rights do not apply."
A spokesperson for Tamboran Resources: "Tamboran Resources is deeply concerned with the announcement made by Environment Minister Mark H Durkan.
"The company is currently reviewing its position and will release a further statement in due course."
Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew said the Environment Minister made the correct decision.
"The decision to deny Tamboran to begin deep bore test drilling in Belcoo, Fermanagh is the correct decision giving the clear opposition to 'fracking' in the area.
"There has been universal support in opposition to fracking in County Fermanagh since Tamboran applied to begin test drilling.
"Sinn Féin has fully supported those involved in campaigning against fracking across Ireland," she continued.
"We congratulate all those in Belcoo who stood firm against this project.
"The decision today is the correct one and it will give heart to communities right across this island who are opposed to fracking."
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