Academic Fidelma O’Kane launched a judicial review against the NIEA’s decision in 2017 for allowing gold mining company Dalradian Gold to discharge nine heavy metals into a tributary of the Owenkillew River – a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) – without carrying out an appropriate assessment under the Habitats Directive.
An appropriate assessment looks at the potential adverse effects of a plan or project – in combination with other plans or projects – on SACs and other EU-protected sites known as Special Protection Areas.
EU Directive 92/43/EEC: On the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora
22 Jan 2013
The court heard this week that the discharge consent allowed heavy metals such as zinc, cadmium, mercury, and chromium to be released under the Water Framework Directive.
The Department for Agriculture, which oversees the NIEA, said the government was no longer contesting the judicial review, accepting that the discharge consent did not meet the “procedural requirements” set down in the regulations.
Dalradian Gold’s permit discharge limits will now revert to the original conditions of its permit set down in the 2014 Water Order Discharge Consent, granted by the NIEA.
A Dalradian spokesman said: “The 2017 consent has been set aside because of a technical legal issue. Dalradian’s application will now be redetermined by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. We expect it to be reissued, in identical terms, to align with EU law which was amended in 2015.
"In the meantime, Dalradian’s water discharge from its existing site will be regulated under a very similar consent issued in 2014. Independently verified testing, continuously taken throughout this period, shows uninterrupted compliance with the required parameters, thus ensuring no harm to the Owenkillew River.”