Decision of the Commissioner for Environmental Information on an appeal made under article 12(5) of the European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007 to 2018 (the AIE Regulations)
Appeal was about
- whether the information requested by the appellant is “environmental information” within the meaning of the AIE Regulations;
- if so, whether the Council is entitled to rely on article 7(3) of the Regulations to refuse to provide the appellant with the information in the form or manner requested by him
“The Council’s submissions to this Office were, at best, unclear and made reference to the fact that the information was commercially sensitive”
“It should also be noted that the Council’s communications both to the appellant and to this Office have been sparse and sometimes difficult to comprehend.”
“The appellant argues that the information is “environmental information” within the meaning of the AIE Regulations as “financial conditions on a quarry are an integral part of the environment including as they do; reinstatement bonds, monitoring contributions, upkeep of roads and so forth”.”
“The Council was asked by the Investigator to demonstrate where the information requested by the appellant was available to the public in an easily accessible form or manner and to explain the basis on which it considered that access in an alternative form or manner was reasonable. It did not address either of those questions in detail”
The existing operational mine in the Navan/ South West Extension (SWEX) area is the largest Zinc mine in Europe. The mine processed 2.1Mtonnes of ore in 2021.
There is no current mining in the Tara Deep area, only planned exploration activities and enabling works. The deposit is estimated to be a 28 Mtonnes Inferred Mineral Resource1 as of December 2021 and is regulated under Boliden Tara Mines prospecting licence (PL4502) which comprises 48.7 km2 area of dominantly flat agricultural land. PL4502 was issued in 2015 and covers the same area as retired licences PL1489R and PL1661R. A prospecting licence has been issued to Boliden Tara Mines for this area since 1970
An exploration drift tunnel, referred to as the 0860 TRDEX or ‘TRDEX’, was excavated from the existing South West Extension (SWEX) area of mine workings through the UDL in the Tara Deep area from late 2018 (refer to Figure 4.1). Further information on the chronology of the development of the exploration tunnel is in Appendix B. The exploration tunnel starts c. 730 m below ground level (mbgl) within the ‘860 level’ of the SWEX mine workings. The tunnel has a gradient of -14% and is completed at c. 1040 mbgl within the UDL, in the hanging wall of the Tara Deep deposit. The cross-sectional profile of the tunnel is 6.5 m high by 6 m wide. The current length of the tunnel is 2.1 km (as of September 2021) and the total planned finished length of the tunnel is 2.4 km
The drilling of a 0.381m diameter RAR7 pilot hole (for surface air vent) began on July 2nd 2021 and concluded on November 25th 2021 which initiated the inrush event into the TRDEX tunnel.
By the 22nd of November, a 300m section of the tunnel had flooded and the inflow rate had increased to 800m3/per hour. While some monitoring wells showed ‘normal ground water levels’ during this time, others were recording significant drawdown. The mine operators began planning for packer and grouting interventions to try and stop the flow. By the 23rd of November the flow had approximately doubled again to 1500m3/hour and the raise bore drill string was removed to facilitate the plan for inflatable packer plugs to be installed from surface into the hole. On the 24th of November the flow had increased again to 2200m3/hour and the response plan had been broadened from the initial plugging of the borehole to also include installation of bulkheads and deliberate flooding of the lower SWEX mine to cope with the inflows which started overtopping the tunnel floor level on the 25th of November. The 25th of November saw the first attempt at packer inflation which temporarily worked (7 minutes) and abated the flow but then the drill string broke (including the nitrogen pressure line used for inflating the packers) and the seal failed.
From the 25th of November to the 2nd of December 2021 plans and surveys were developed for a second packer-plugging attempt. During this time (and since the initial onset of the inrush) Boliden deployed major-incident level responses to ensure safety, continued operation of emergency equipment and infrastructure (pump-sets and dewatering systems), water management, monitoring, community, public, workforce and regulatory liaison. The inrush incident was highly dynamic and challenging in terms of management as large-scale underground pump stations became overwhelmed by the inflow and were submerged.
On the 1st of December, the broken drill string was still in place at the base of the RAR7 bore despite efforts to locate it using downhole surveying equipment. An inflatable packer was lowered to a position of 900m depth and secured in place on the 2nd of December 2021 and inflated at 00.30am. Once inflated and stabilised, sand and bentonite were placed on top and then later a grout seal placed which was allowed to cure and the inflow finally stopped.
Dewatering of the flood water commenced on December 13th 2021 with consented discharge to the River Boyne and was still continuing at the time of drafting this (May 2022)
Prior to the inrush the Navan mine monitoring programme comprised :
• Daily inspection of underground headings.
• Monthly compilation of underground groundwater inflows (including probe drilling).
• Monthly water table measurement of surface drill holes.
• Monitoring of groundwater pressures in underground holes.
• Bi-annual hydro-geochemical sampling; and
• Professional consultancy from Boliden Tara’s consultants.
Following the in-rush event, 17 boreholes within the Tara Deep and Robinstown and Shambo areas were selected to be monitored on a daily basis.
EPA license data for the site
The second Excel removes the peatland specific pollution sites, to highlight the catchments polluted by mines/quarries. There are not many mines in Ireland, so most of the pollution related to quarry operations
No records found for Bay Lane or Milverton quarries
Feltrim Quarry, Swords
Dated: Feb 2019
Cement Roadstone Holdings, Finglas
AIE Request 202217
Re: AIE request -AIE 22/09
I refer to the request you made under the European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007 to 2018 (S.I. No. 133 of 2007, S.I. No. 662 of 2011, S.I. 615 of 2014 and S.I. No. 309 of 2018) (hereafter referred to as the AIE Regulations) for access to information held by Galway County Council relating to 2 unlicensed quarry operations on Inis Mor.As you are aware from the initial acknowledgement, I am the decision-maker dealing with your request .
Extension date by which decision will be made
As indicated in the acknowledgement of 6th May, Galway County Council is obliged to notify you of its decision on this request within one month of its receipt. However, Article 7(2)(b) of the AIE Regulations allows a public body to extend this time period up to a maximum of 2 months from the date on which the request was received, where the decision maker is unable, due to the volume or complexity of the request, to make a decision within the original one month period.
In respect of your application, due to the volume of records involved it will not be possible to make a decision on your request within the standard one-month timeframe.
Accordingly, I am extending the timeframe for dealing with your request by one month from the date indicated to you in the acknowledgement letter. I will therefore notify you of my decision as soon as possible, but at the latest by 1st July 2022
156 registered quarries in Laois
12 quarries in Laois have open enforcement files against them
On site reviews of all the quarries was begun by the council during 2020. 110 were studied