Plans to excavate mine and build sports complex

Gyproc is seeking planning permission to excavate its former Drumgoosat mine, to continue the restoration of its existing open cast site at Knocknacran, and to press ahead with plans to build a community sports complex in the Magheracloone area.

The latest application, lodged with Monaghan County Council this month, sees parent company Saint-Gobain Mining (Ireland) Ltd apply for permission to excavate gypsum at Drumgoosat by open cast methods, while continuing with the “ongoing restoration” of an open cast mine at Knocknacran.

Included also in the plans is its continued use and refurbishment of the existing Knocknacran Processing Plant, in tandem with developing a Community Sports Complex at Drummond, Derrynaglah and Knocknacran West.

The area's community centre was damaged and subsequently condemned following a subsidence incident in 2018.

Last year Saint-Gobain were granted permission for a community centre, site road and parking, wastewater treatment system, percolation and attenuation areas, boundary treatments, a new entrance onto public road, and all associated site works.

An application in respect of plans to excavate the former Drumgoosat underground mine was withdrawn soon after it was first submitted.

Mining has taken place in the locality since 1958, with the open cast mine operating since 1989.

A 50-page summary, submitted by Saint-Gobain, outlines that the current proposed development includes the construction of a 'Cut-and-Cover Tunnel' under the existing Carrickmacross to Kingscourt regional road (R179) for the transport of gypsum “by haulage truck and covered conveyor” to the processing plant at Knocknacran.

The proposed tunnel will necessitate a temporary realignment of the R179 during the tunnel construction period, and include replacement vehicular access to the existing Knocknacran Open-Cast Mine and Knocknacran Processing Plant area site from the L4816.

The proposed development also includes the demolition of one residential house and three unoccupied houses and sheds in the townlands of Knocknacran (East & West), Co Monaghan; and the pumping of water from the existing Drumgoosat underground workings via an existing borehole on the Knocknacran West Mine site.

The plans for the further development of a new community sports complex include two further playing pitches (one with perimeter running track), a new building to incorporate reception, meeting/club rooms, sports hall, handball alley, changing rooms and toilets, viewing gallery; and a part-covered grandstand.

Pre-planning application meetings were held with Monaghan County Council in January and February 2023, in advance of these latest plans being lodged. In addition, extensive correspondence is ongoing between the local authority and Saint Gobain in relation to recent subsidence events at Knocknacran West/Drumgoosat.

Monaghan Council issued a Scoping Opinion in June 2020 and the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) submitted as part of the latest application, and shared with the Department for the Environment also, outlines how issues “have been addressed” by the mining company.

The company states that gypsum reserves at the existing Knocknacran and Drummond mines “are being depleted” in line with demand, and a new supply of gypsum “is required in the near future” to maintain the viability of the Irish gypsum industry. “The development at Knocknacran West Open-Cast Mine and continuation of use of the Knocknacran Processing Plant will sustain benefits to the national and local economies through the continuity of sustainable jobs directly related to the operation as well as indirect benefits through the use of local supplies and services.”

The mine is expected to have a life span of 30 years, with 300,000 tonnes of material a year expected to be extracted.

A decision on the new application is due in early June.