Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan has granted a mining company as many as 10 prospecting licenses to search for gold and silver in east Mayo.

The company, Oriel Selection Trust Ltd, has secured the licenses, which are valid for up to six years, following a review by Minister Ryan’s department.

The areas impacted include and surround Charlestown and the Minister granted the licenses to the mining company, understood to be Australian, on Tuesday.

“For a man that almost brought down the government on the turf cutting issue, it is incomprehensible to us that he would go down this road,” Mayo Environmental Group secretary Seán O’Malley said in reaction.


A prospecting licence (PL) is a permit, issued by the Minister, which allows a mining company to prospect for specified minerals in a defined geographic area referred to as a prospecting licence area (PLA).

While later mining licenses are required for the actually extraction of the minerals, O’Malley contends that it is likely these will be granted if nothing is done.

Mayo Environmental Group secretary Seán O’Malley highlighted the "saga" surrounding prospecting licenses granted for Croagh Patrick in the past.

Speaking on Wednesday, he referred to previous commentary from a senior Department of Energy official in the Supreme Court that if there are reserves found, it is “highly likely” the holder of the prospecting license will be granted a mining license.

Mining in Mayo

O’Malley highlighted the community reaction when it came to mineral mining in Mayo in the past.

“It is now almost 34 years since the Mayo Environmental Group waged a very successful campaign against mining in the Croagh Patrick and Doolough areas.

“I suppose what surprised us was that the current Minister for the Environment, who’s a green Minister, would give out prospecting licenses for gold and silver with the saga that went on in west Mayo in the late 80s and early 90s,” he said.

The Mayo Environmental Group representative said that mining requires the use of dangerous chemicals or smelting which he said consumes large amounts of electricity which “we don’t have in this country”.

“The way these mining companies operate, they move in, extract the metal quickly, then liquidate or dissolve the company and they’re gone and there’s an environmental disaster left behind for local authorities and the Department of Environment to clean up,” he claimed.


Seán O’Malley called for the community around Charlestown to “get organised” and contact their local politicians to raise concerns about the prospecting licences.

Mining damages the environment, says the Mayo Environmental Group . \ Philip Doyle

“If the prospecting license proves to find a commercial find, then there is major pressure brought to bear to grant planning permission,” he said.


Outlining the reason for which prospecting licenses are granted in Ireland, Minister Ryan said: “The transition to a low carbon economy will require substantially more minerals and metals for use in new wind farms, solar photovoltaic plants, electric vehicles, battery storage [and] electricity networks.”

The Green Party leader said this requirement was confirmed in the International Energy Agency report ‘The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions’.

“The huge growth in demand for minerals that are required to enable the transition to clean energy technologies necessitates that mining, and also the mineral exploration necessary to identify new mineral resources, will continue to occur for many more decades.

“Without further mining, the shift from a fossil-fuel based energy system to one powered by clean energy technologies will not be possible,” he said.

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