By Eoin Kelleher
PUBLIC opposition is mounting against the proposed sale of Lisheen Mine near Thurles to an Indian mining group which campaigners say has a poor record in upholding human rights and the environment.
Next Friday, a public meeting is taking place in Moyne to discuss the sale of Lisheen Mine, which employs 370 people, to Vedanta Resources Group.
Local people fear that Vedanta, which had a mining operation shut down by judges for pollution in its native India, is not suitable to take over the mine.
The sale of Lisheen to Vedanta is subject to regulatory approval, which is expected over the next 12 months. Public representatives from across the political divide have united in urging Minister Pat Carey not to approve the deal. Management of Lisheen Mine were not available for comment at the time of going to press.
This week, Tim Bergin, Chairperson of the Moyne Templetuohy Parish Forum, called on all concerned residents to attend the open meeting on Friday, to be held in the Moyne Community Centre at 8pm.
“A number of years ago our parish formed a Parish Forum and we have built up a good working relationship with, the owners of the Lisheen Mine, Anglo American,” Mr Bergin told the Tipperary Star. “ Up to now we have been satisfied with Anglo American. They have provided local employment, improved local infrastructure, they have adhered to all Environment Protection Agency, local authority and Government rules.
“In May 2010 we were informed that Anglo American had sold their lead and zinc operations including Lisheen to a company called Vedanta Resources. Our understanding is that Vedanta Resources need the approval of the Irish Government in order to purchase the Lisheen Mine.
“Many people in our community have contacted us expressing concerns about the environmental health and safety standards of Vedanta Resources. It is estimated that the Lisheen Mine will close in 2014 and as a community we have been actively involved, in conjunction with the Lisheen Mine management, in devising a closure plan that will ensure the protection of the ground water and environment for the foreseeable future.
“In our view Anglo American have run the Lisheen Mine to the highest health and safety and environmental standards and we believe that our community were confident that the closure plan would also be engineered to the same standards. However we have no confidence in our future with Vedanta Resources. Vedanta Resources have had a smelter closed by the Indian courts.”
Mr Bergin cited several international examples where Vedanta was shown to have polluted the environment. “We are most disappointed that Anglo American are selling us out to a company with such a poor reputation in their own country and internationally. We have contacted all our public representatives regarding this and are hope full that the Government will reject the sale of Lisheen Mine to any company that may put the lives of our people or the environment in danger.
“The Parish of Moyne Templetuohy is in the heart of Tipperary, it is an intensive farming area and we believe that anything other than the highest mining standards could have a detrimental effect on the reputation of our agricultural industry. We believe that there are too many doubts about Vedanta Resources to allow this deal to go through.”
TDs Michael Lowry and Noel Coonan, and MEP Alan Kelly, are insisting Minister Carey look at Vedanta’s record before approving the deal. “According to publicly available material on Vedanta, the company is in a number of legal disputes with the Indian government,” said Deputy Michael Lowry. “It has also been the subject of criticism by various agencies which questioned its treatment of indigenous peoples as well as it safety and environmental standards.”
Alan Kelly said the company had a “questionable track record when it came to worker and environmental treatment and if the mine were not run properly, it could prove disastrous for the area.”
Deputy Coonan said that he had contacted Minister Carey and the Secretary General of the Department of Communications and Natural Resources to convey his concern about the sale.
“The Department has informed me that any sale will be conditional on the new owners continuing to ensure strict compliance with the terms of the State mining lease and all other statutory permits and enactments, including the planning permission and Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Licence (IPPCL), not only during the remaining life of the mine, but also in its closure, restoration and aftercare,” he said.