NATURAL Resources and Energy Minister Eamon Ryan yesterday effectively signalled that all exploration and mining of uranium will be prohibited in Ireland.
He said the likely end use of uranium mined here would be for nuclear electricity generation, which he is against.
As a result, he announced that he had declined to grant prospecting licences to two companies seeking to explore for uranium in Donegal.
He later told the Irish Examiner that while prospecting does not involve significant activity, if that process were allowed it would have to follow logically that mining licences would then have to be issued.
“We are in court taking actions against the processing of uranium in Sellafield. It would be hypocritical of us to allow prospecting here. What we are doing here is similar to what has been done in New Zealand and a number of Australian states,” he said.
Mr Ryan’s decision is grounded in his belief that issuing a prospecting licence cannot be done in isolation and there is an inevitable follow-on.
“A prospecting licence is the first step in the mining process. Granting a licence carries an implicit policy agreement permitting its extraction should a viable prospect be discovered. This is where my concern lies,” he said.
Pointing out that the likely end use of uranium mined in Ireland would be in a nuclear power plan, he said it would be “hypocritical” of him to permit the mining of uranium while campaigning against the use of the same ore.
He said that there are also significant environmental and public health concerns surrounding uranium mining.
It is not the first time that an attempt has been made to prospect for and mine uranium in Donegal.
The county has several sites that may have extractable uranium deposits.
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