GOVERNMENT CHIEF WHIP IN SCATHING ATTACK ON EIRGRID INTERCONNECTOR APPLICATION
Regina Doherty TD brands pylons plan “an absolute disgrace”
This section concerned issues raised by landowners and groups from Co. Monaghan, Cavan and Meath
REGINA DOHERTY TD, Meath East and government Chief Whip, told the Bord Pleanála oral hearing in Carrickmacross that EirGrid’s planning application for the high voltage North/South electricity interconnector was “an absolute disgrace”. She told presiding inspector Breda Gannon there was a technical, financial and information deficit in the details provided to the Board. She requested that EirGrid should be asked to address and fix the deficit and then come back and have another debate about the plan.
EirGrid is proposing to erect 399 pylons along a 137km route from an existing substation at Woodland near Batterstown in Co. Meath through part of Co. Cavan and into Co. Monaghan near Lough Egish. The line would cross the border at Lemgare near Clontibret, extend into Co. Armagh and to a new substation at Turleenan near the Moy in Co. Tyrone.
Ms Doherty said the first public consultation regarding the original proposal was in 2007 and EirGrid had had several years to prepare a new application (submitted in June 2015). It was an inadequate application for the people of Meath, Cavan and Monaghan to defend and oppose the case. Although she acknowledged the need for security of electricity supply, the overhead lines and pylons proposed were not the appropriate technology.
She highlighted the fact that EirGrid had made over fifty changes to proposed access routes or minor map modifications during the course of the ten-week hearing. She believed this showed a lack of courtesy and respect both for the people affected and for Bord Pleanála. Details of the proposed changes had only been put on the EirGrid website last week. Some of the maps they were using were ten years or more out of date and did not show new housing development.
She claimed the environmental impact statement was completely inadequate for a planning application of this size. There was also inadequate communication about EirGrid’s intentions. EirGrid said they wanted the most technically advanced and most robust solution for the transmission line. From the beginning they insisted there were absolutely no other options than an overhead line, but now they were accepting that undergrounding was technically feasible.
Ms Doherty said the company had to show why other than overhead options were technically inferior and take into account the effects on land valuation and the impact on flora and fauna. The only thing they heard from EirGrid was that “we know best; the people know nothing”. There had never been a fully costed underground route either acknowledged or entertained. This was a huge flaw. EirGrid’s unwillingness on this was a disservice and an injustice to the people who would be affected. The financial and emotional costs had not been weighed up.
The Meath East TD said she was pleading with the inspectors to get an explanation why. We are arguing in the dark, she said, about the technical and financial perspective. She was asking EirGrid to go back to the drawing board and come back with what they should have done in the first place. EirGrid should put the options forward and allow a reasonable and informed debate and they should listen to the very real concerns raised by people at the hearing.
AIDAN GEOGHEGAN, EirGrid Project Manager, explained the company’s approach to the application. He said a high voltage DC underground option had greater complexity and brought greater risks. It would not do the job as well as an overhead route and was not in line with best international practice. He put the extra cost involved at €670 million.
Dr GEORGE EOGHAN from Nobber, Co. Meath, an internationally acclaimed archaeologist who excavated the passage tomb at Knowth said it would be horrifying to put a series of pylons and power lines near the historic Bronze Age site at Teltown (Tealtainn), a key cultural area. The former UCD Professor said he could not undertstand the proposal as he thought the Irish people had a greater respect for our national monuments. What was proposed amounted to a criminal action, he claimed.
He said Teltown should be left in its rural setting and kept as it is. The unspoilt rural landscape must be preserved for present and future generations. Dr Eoghan called for the EirGrid application to be rejected.
DECLAN MOORE, consultant archaeologist for EirGrid, said earlier in the hearing in the Teltown area, no known archaeological monuments would be directly, physically impacted upon by the proposed development. Because of its high archaeological potential and as previously unrecorded archaeological remains could be found during the construction of the towers, mitigation measures were recommended.
The magnitude of the impact of the proposed development on the setting of Rath Dhu, the fort thought to be the centre for the ancient Teltown funeral games, was considered to be minor with the overall significance of the impact on the setting of the monument deemed to be slight.
Although the proposed power lines were almost 700m from Teltown church, a number of the towers associated with the development would be visible as it passed to the east. The magnitude of the impact of the proposed development was found to be substantial. The overall significance of the impact on the setting of Teltown church was found to be moderate negative.
EirGrid is suggesting that a licensed archaeologist supervises any excavations in advance of the construction of towers, thereby ensuring the early identification of archaeological deposits and minimal loss to the archaeological record. The National Monuments Service of the DAHG and the National Museum of Ireland would be consulted immediately should archaeology be discovered. An archaeologist would also monitor site access and construction works.
OLD MINE WORKINGS HIGHLIGHTED
MAURICE MCADAM, Lisdrumgormley, posed a series of questions to EirGrid, in particular about old mine workings in the Clontibret area. He then introduced DR COLIN ANDREW, a geologist from Co. Meath and member of the NEPPC.
COLIN ANDREW reported as follows: the northernmost portion of the proposed overhead high voltage cable alignment between proposed pylons 102 and 117 transectED an area of extensive ancient and old mining activity, principally for lead. This activity dated from the medieval period but reached a maximum in the mid-19th century when a number of mines were active.
The mines were extensive although production was relatively limited due to the nature of the mineralisation forming rich pipes within the fault-vein structures. With respect to the proposed development many collapses into mine voids have been recorded over recent years both in the vicinity of known shafts and lateral workings but also in areas with no recorded mining activity. In this respect a number of proposed pylon placements are located in hazardous areas in close proximity to recent collapses. Dr Andrew said he believed the total absence of any assessment or even acknowledgement of these issues was a fundamental omission within the EIS.
Construction of such a development involves numerous access routes for vehicles up to 38 tonnes gross axle weight along tracks overlying open mine voids and the potential for danger to life and limb is paramount. The EIS is fundamentally deficient in not addressing such issues as not only access is compromised but the siting of a number of the proposed pylons has not been properly evaluated.
Evaluation should have comprised field examination of the sites, detailed mapping of the mine sites by an experienced industrial archaeologist and mining geologist followed by ground penetrating radar or similar geophysical technique to ascertain the presence of subjacent mine voids. In the view of Dr Andrew, without such the EIS remained fundamentally inadequate.
In similar terrains, in Cornwall, for example, many sudden collapses into old mine voids are commonplace and it is a normal requirement of planning from Cornwall County Council to have a full comprehensive search on mine records and ground survey completed as part of any planning application.
Location: The mines were mostly grouped round the village of Milltown, within the eastern border of Co. Monaghan, and several disused shafts bearing the names of separate townlands may occur on this long lode. The Tassan-Tonagh-Coolartragh lode is thus traceable for 3km and workings may be expected anywhere along this feature. GSI Memoir 58 (1914) notes that “…numerous small disused shafts and workings occur along the line of the lode between Tassan and Coolartragh”.
Several of the smaller ventures, not touched on here, are mentioned in Memoir 59, ‘pp. 28-9 (1877). The remains of ancient workings are seen at a point between the Lemgare and Annaglogh shafts. A ruined engine-house marks the site of a lode of galena (lead) said to range north and south, with an easterly hade, in Croaghan, south of Tassan Lough; and in Glare Oghill, at the edge of the map, nearly due west of Castleblayney, a similar lode was at one time worked. Some of the shafts here remain partly open. A lode of lead is reported to have been discovered in Grig, north-east of the last named townland, and to have been also struck near the railway bridge, south of this.
Details of individual mines: Coolartragh Mines (3)
History: According to the GSI 6” Sheet and MSS notes, about seven shafts were opened on the vein that traverses the townland from south to north. Griffith (1861, p. 150) is the authority for identifying Coolartragh as also being known as the Bond Mine. The UK Department of Trade & Industry and the BGS .possesses a plan, and a section down to 35 fathoms, showing four levels, dated 1892 (AM 2986).
The Bond Mine operated by the Consolidated Mines of Bond, Lemgare and Lisdrumgormel (sic) Company of Liverpool under Captain John Skimming was reported in 1846 (Mining Journal) to have been developed at the 18, 25 and 30 fathom levels where the vein was large and productive with bunches of rich ore and that the vein had been explored for nearly “1 mile of length”
The engine shaft is said to have been vertical and cut the lode at 30 fathoms, and a large and valuable amount of ore is supposed to remain yet un-extracted. This lode is considered to be identical with the main Tassan Vein. It has an underlie to the east at 60o, and its course appears to have been proved beyond doubt both north and south of the main sinking. The matrix here is chiefly quartz, with some calcite; and a considerable quantity of sphalerite is said to occur along with the lead.
Tonagh Mine: History
Two small shafts were sunk close to the boundary of Coolartragh and Tonagh townlands. And some minor production ensued between 1859-61 when the vein showed a band of galena underlying to the east within a zone of brecciated slates above a footwall of Tertiary basalt. A landowner (Michael Hughes) proposed to dewater the shafts in Tonagh in 1953 but nothing came of this. No production is detailed.
Lemgare Mine: History
In the townland of Lemgare an adit and three shafts along a strike length of 50 fathoms (95m) were sunk to a depth of 18 fathoms (35m) below adit on a nearly vertical vein by the Consolidated Mines of Bond, Lemgare and Lisdrumgormel (sic) Company of Liverpool under Captain John Skimming commencing in July 1846. The vein is supposed to be the same as that at Annaglogh, located approximately 1km to the SSE, which are marked on the MS. 6″ map of the Geological Survey. Griffith (1861, p. 150) gives Lemgare as a worked mine. Mem. 59, p. 28, regards it as on the continuation of the Annaglogh lode.
The Lemgare vein has been profitably worked at Annaglogh. It hades easterly at around 75o, and is joined from the north by another, also hading easterly at around 60o. A shaft at the junction reached rich ore at 17 fathoms (~30m). The lode is supposed to be thrown northwards by a cross-course about 1.2m wide which exists as indicated on the map, as all trace of it is lost farther to the east, it is believed to have been proved 150m farther north.
Lemgare Mine was re-opened by Billiton NV in the early 1950’s as part of prospecting activities. The adit extended along an unmineralized fault zone for approximately 110m, being connected to surface by a short (4m) ventilation shaft near the portal. Upon entering sandstone wall-rocks the fault became mineralized and some stoping was seen to surface (20m) near the end of the drive which extended but was inaccessible but almost certainly extends below two surface shaft collapse located above. An inclined shaft or winze to indeterminate depth (presumably to 18 fathoms (~35m) was also located along the course of the adit with a 10cm rib of galena on the fault plane.
Annaglogh Mine: History
This mine is known to have been in production in 1852 and features in the list of mines between 1860-65 when it was being worked by the Consolidated Mines of Bond, Lemgare and Lisdrumgormel (sic) Company of Liverpool under Captain John Skimming. During this period approximately 300-400 tonnes of ore was reported as being raised annually. The 1870 MSS 6″ map of the Geological Survey gives details of four shafts one of which was sunk as much as 40 fathoms (~75m) on the vein, and a pumping engine house. The sites of several of these, along with the base of the engine house and its associated chimney are still visible. The only output from Annaglogh is recorded in 1852 when 310 tons of lead was produced and “some lead sold” in 1853.
Tassan mine: History
This was probably the most important mine of the district. The townland adjoins that of Tonagh on the south, and the vein is the same as that which passes northward into Coolartragh. The mine was commenced in the late 1840’s by Joseph Backhouse as the Tassan Mining Company 1844-56, but the most significant period of working was by the Castleblayney Mining Company from 1856-61 and from 1862-5; but it seems to have been closed in 1867. There are five shafts marked on the 1857 6” OSI map although little trace remains of them at the present time.
Lisdrumgormley mine: History
The 6″ Geological Survey MSS map marks two veins continuing northward from those of Annaglogh, and the western of these was reached at no great depth in Lisdrumgormley, just east of a basaltic dyke that is probably correlated with this fault / vein. In the north of the townland, close against the Armagh border, “Lead Mine” is engraved on the 6” Ordnance sheet. Lisdrumgormley was also under exploration by the Farney Development Company in 1922.
The lode in Lisdrumgormley is reported, on contemporary authority, to be still rich in argentiferous galena, embedded in a matrix of quartz and carbonate of lime in the deepest workings. so far as it is known, from 2 to 9 feet. This lode, which comes to the surface at the main working, is said to have realized a large profit at depths not exceeding 25 fathoms. A shaft located some 250m SSE along strike of the vein is reported to have attained 60m depth and returned 50 tonnes of lead concentrates.
Extent of mine workings: Because of a combination of the age of the mine workings for lead in this area coupled with the short-lived nature of the various formalised cost-book companies that operated the mines, the records of the extent of workings are obscure. Most of the cost-book companies were not floated on the London Stock Exchange as was common practice at this time and, as a result, did not return reports that were then published in the contemporary Mining Journal.
Dr Andrew claimed that in their assessment of the extent and impact of mine workings EirGrid had solely relied upon the information received from the GSI and EPA and did not appear to have conducted any detailed research. The GSI have admitted in correspondence concerning the extent of mine workings in the area that they “..do not necessarily capture the full extent of a feature, particularly if it is inaccessible and impractical..” and thus do not have information detailing the extent of mine workings such as shafts, trial pits, adits, stoped sections of veins and any lateral workings thereon.
It is also worth noting that the other statutory body, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) have also confirmed (to Maurice McAdam) that “As per your complaint to the EPA, in relation to the EPA Inventory of Disused Mine Sites 2009, this national inventory taken does not account of every mine site but is risk based taken to define the mine waste/spoil sites, the waste geo-chemistry and to account for Public Health and Safety.”
In the opinion of Dr Andrew, it appears that the two statutory bodies are unaware of the locations of mine workings and their attendant risk and EirGrid have not conducted any form of site investigation.
Recent collapses: The submitted EIS makes absolutely no reference to the two recorded occurrences of mine workings collapse in both Annaglogh and Lisdrumgormley in 2010 and 2012 respectively in any part of EirGrid’s application or supporting documents it has submitted with its application.
Risk assessment: Collapse of old mine workings results from a number of factors. Chief amongst these is heavy rainfall causing loading of the surficial materials covering the voids and resultant gravitational collapse. Ravelling from the walls of the void spaces also is a contributory factor.
What is without doubt is that the principal cause is instability either from gradational collapse below the surficial plug or by surface loading which can be triggered even by the weight of an animal. Quite clearly 38 tonne trucks and excavators are very likely to cause additional collapses not only of shafts but also of stopes and other lateral workings and trials. Specific issues are detailed in the table below:
|Proposed Pylon 102
|Located on the northerly strike extension of the Coolartragh veins system. Potential for lateral development under this area.
|Proposed Pylon 103
||Access route crosses known mine workings in close proximity to shaft on Coolartragh East Vein and the location of an ancient lead mine.
|Proposed Pylon 108
||Located directly above adit level of Lemgare Mine, stoping to surface seen in underground surveys. Small shafts and stopes to surface seen at surface but ignored by EirGrid.
|Proposed Pylon 109
||Located within 50m of historic collapses, access route crosses these temporarily filled collapses. Land owner aware of multiple collapses over past 50 years. Two veins worked at depth at Annaglogh Mine extend under this location from Junction Shaft sunk to the 40 fathom level (~80m below surface).
The proposed access route directly crosses the location of a former collapsed shaft that was infilled by the landowner some 30 years ago. The modified access routes dated 29th April 2016 are absurd in that they now directly cross the location of a collapsed mine working.
|Proposed Pylon 110
||No history of collapse in this area to date but lies in close proximity to known mine workings at the Annaglogh Mine.
Access routes to proposed pylon site and guarding areas criss-cross an area of extensive mining operations, known shafts and lateral workings.
|Proposed Pylon 116
||Located over the northern section of the Tassan Mine. Two parallel veins known to have been mined down to the 80 fathom level (~150m below surface). Likelihood of collapse of near surface stopes. Shafts on eastern vein lie both north and south of the proposed alignment.
Access routes cross an area of possible lateral underground workings.
Conclusions: The EirGrid EIS is particularly remiss in failing to locate, identify and assess mine workings. The failure to recognise and assess the potential for collapse of old mine workings is a major and fundamental omission. The failure almost certainly stems from a lack of understanding of such issues, a failure to examine the sites in the field, and a total lack of site investigation of any form whatsoever other than a desk-top study. The absence of any form of appropriate assessment is total folly and is clearly unacceptable. Dr Andrew told the inspectors that permitting the project could not be granted until such on site assessment and study had been completed to an acceptable professional standard.
EirGrid stood by the accuracy and extent of the environmental impact statement and the basis on which they had carried out the research. They said none of the new information would change their assessment which had been done with the help of GSI information and LiDAR technology to provided details of the topography.
The assessment they had already made of the Lemgare area which showed the old mine workings extending away from the area where the pylons would be going. In their response document published in December 2015 the company noted that a number of submissions raised issues in respect of the potential of the proposed development to impact on specific mines. These issues were addressed as follows:-
Tassan Mine: Details of Tassan Mine are included in the EIS. The historical mine is located 170m south east of Tower 117. The mine area of Tassan CGS was delineated by the GSI and incorporates the locations of shafts, other surface features and historical maps and data. There are no historical records that would suggest mine shafts at Tower 116 or 117. All historical data available from the GSI was assessed. The boundaries of the CGS are shown on Figure 7.17 in Volume 3C. Distances to the outlined boundary of Tassan CGS are detailed in Chapter 7, Volume 3C.
Lemgare Mine: The Lemgare mines were avoided by the route selection process, with proposed mitigation measures identified regarding Lemgare County Geological Site (CGS). Historical maps available from the GSI indicate that the underground works are contained within the boundaries of the Lemgare County Geological Site. The boundaries of the Lemgare CGS are shown on Figure 7.17 in Volume 3C. Distances from the proposed works to the boundary of Lemgare CGS are detailed in Chapter 7, Volume 3C.
Lisdrumgromly and Annaglogh Mines: Lisdrumgromly and Annaglogh Mines are located over 200m from the proposed interconnector. OSI and GSI records show the locations of shafts and surface workings for Lisdrumgromly and Annaglogh. Based on a review of the data there is no evidence of underground workings along the proposed line or at tower bases. All historical data available from the GSI was evaluated. The location of ‘collapsed shafts’ are mapped on the OSI historical maps. No evidence of mine shafts at the tower bases are presented in the submission. Based on a review of the data there is no evidence of underground workings along the proposed line or at tower bases.
The Co. Monaghan Geological Site Report on Lemgare says the site was part of a working farm and the fields immediately surrounding the mine dumps were used for grazing cattle. Many of the minerals that had been recorded there could only be studied satisfactorily with specialist equipment and the site was thus likely to be of interest mainly to scientists. Therefore it did not require further promotion. The presence of rare wulfenite meant Lemgare warranted County Geological Site status.
TOIRLEACH GOURLEY, senior planner with Monaghan County Council, returned to the hearing to give his assessment of a number of eight proposed access points on public roads for pylon construction work that had been proposed by EirGrid. Mr Gourley said he had visited the areas with a colleague from the Roads Section and they continued to have serious concern about the proposed parking of concrete lorries for offloading material onto dumper trucks to be taken to the pylon sites.
TOM CANNON a transport consultant from Tobin engineers replied for EirGrid. He explained with a series of slides how there would be room at the relevant places to park a lorry while allowing a vehicle to pass. He said traffic management operatives would be on duty at these locations. He also said short sections of road might have to be closed to local traffic for periods of around ten minutes while offloading took place. Mr Gourley replied that if roads were to be closed then Monaghan County Council would require three months’ advance notice in order to allow an assessment to be carried out.
MARY MARRON, Lough Egish, told the inspectors she had tried five times to ring the low-call number that EirGrid had provided for information about the project. All she got in reply was that it was the wrong number and she asked the Board to take that into account when considering the level of consultation.
Closing submissions in the hearing will be made next Monday 23rd May on day 35 at the start of the eleventh week. JAMES MCNALLY, Latnakelly, Annyalla, made his closing submission last week and details will be included in day 35 coverage.