OVER 200 years since Ireland’s only gem-quality diamond ever discovered was found in a local river, prospecting for the precious stones could soon begin across the county.
In 1816 a young girl found an uncut diamond in the Colebrooke River. Known as the Brookeborough Diamond, having being given to Lady Brookeborough at the time, the stone has been the subject of flutters of interest down through the past two centuries. However, only a little further investigation has every taken place.
Now a the Department for the Economy have proposed issuing a prospecting licence for much of the east of the county, including Brookeborough, Tempo, Donagh, Maguiresbridge and Roslea.
Richard Conroy, chairman of Karelian Diamond Resources PLC who are hoping to be granted the licence said they had always been intrigued by the tale of the Brookeborough Diamond, and said the science indicated it may not have been a one-off. Mineral samples taken over the years, local rock structures, and a significant geological study 20 years ago all indicate the possibility of diamonds in lurking beneath the Fermanagh countryside, according to Karelian.
“The results from a technical point of view were certainly suggestive that the area could hold diamonds. Then there is, of course, the actual evidence of a diamond being found there,” said Mr Conroy, who stressed the process was in its earliest stages and searching for diamonds was “like looking for a needle in a haystack.”
If diamonds are discovered, Mr Conroy said a diamond mine, particularly one for rare gem-quality diamonds, could create a lot of local employment, and would not have a major impact on the environment.
“Diamond mining is the most environmentally friendly mining you can do, because the diamonds are just basically carbon,” he said. “You don’t have to use any chemical processes or anything like that because you’re simply sifting through the sand or the rock in order to find the diamond.”
Deputy leader of the Green Party NI, Tanya Jones, said while diamond mining was not as harmful as gold mining, for example, “no form of mining is glamorous.”
Ms Jones disputed claims a mine would boost the local economy, stating the high-skilled, high-paid jobs would likely come from outside.
“Meanwhile, the effect of mining on our actual important businesses of farming, food production and tourism is negative,” she said.
Those who would like to make a representation regarding the proposed licence have until Friday, November 10 to contact the Department, by emailing email@example.com
Absent MLAs add to objectors’ concern
While some may welcome the possibility of diamond mining in Fermanagh, over 1,000 people have so far signed a petition calling for the licence not to be granted “by the back door” while the Stormont Executive is suspended.
Among other issues, the petition states not enough information has been provided regarding the proposed prospecting licence, and that there is no political accountability regarding the granting of the licence.
“Normally when such a proposal is made, MLAs have the opportunity to ask questions of the Minister and raise issues in committee,” the petition states. “We do not think it is appropriate for civil servants to be granting new licences during this period, with no political oversight or scrutiny.
Deputy Green Party NI leader Tanya Jones has urged people to read and sign the petition, which you can find here.
She told the Herald: “I think it’s important to note that the proposed licence isn’t just for diamonds but for base metals as well. That makes it very broad in potential impact.”
Ms Jones added: “One of the key points, as well as the potential damage, lack of information and lack of consultation, is the lack of political leadership, oversight or scrutiny while Stormont is empty.”