Residents back hydro project

Silvermines hydro-electric power station plan is described as a 'win-win' for the village

Residents back hydro project

The planned hydro-electric power station in Silvermines has been welcomed by the local community.

Despite some misgivings at a public meeting in the village last Saturday night, the general consensus was that the project would be good for the local community.

One of its main advantages is the cleaning up, once and for all, of the contaminated Magcobar mining site.

Around 100 residents attended the meeting in Hickey's Bar which was addressed by Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly; project director Darren Quinn of SIGA Hydro; Conor Gilligan of Roadbridge and Felix Koselleck of Austrian company Strabag SE.

Among the issues raised were the project's impact on property prices and the amount of traffic it would generate.

Mr Gilligan assured one woman whose property is near the site that the company would conduct a full surevy of properties and samples recorded to protect themselves and the homeowners.

Part of the planning application would include upgrading the road.

However, most work would be carried out on site and the only real movement of heavy vehicles would when the turbines were being delivered.

He also assured the meeting that there would be no blasting and that it was felt the sludge at the bottom of the current reservoir could be cleaned up.

Tipperary County Council director of services Karl Cashen said the council would ensure controls and plans were in place to lessen the impact on Silvermines during construction. If the project went ahead, the council would ensure it followed best practice.

One speaker from the floor who worked on two such projects in Alaska described it as a “win-win” situation because of its spinoffs.

Another said that Silvermines and Nenagh needed the project.

Minister Kelly told one resident he was hopefult that more than 50 per cent of the workforce would be local.

At the start of the meeting, Minister Kelly described the planned project as “brilliant for the Silvermines.”

He described the €650m project as an opportunity to turn a “negative environmental legacy into a positive future for the village”.

He reiterated the point that the planned power station would be emission-free, produce no noise and have no pylons as the cabling to the national grid would go underground

However, he maintained this could only be done with community support and recalled the community's battle to prevent a superdump being built on the former mining site some time back.

Mr Quinn said the developers were there to listen to the community, unlike in the past when they had been “dealt a bad hand”.

He outlined the project and why Silvermines was chosen, including the fact that a lot of work had already been done on site in that the mountain had already been “ripped apart”.

He listed as the benefits that the plant would be sustainable, it would have a tourism spinoff and lower the country's dependence on €6bn worth of fossil fuel annually.

Stage one of the project will take up to two years and involve a detailed feasibility study and community engagement; stage two will be planning and, if successful, stage three will see the start of the four-year construction phase.