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Gold mine plan could be a winner for Gairloch residents

By Ally Tibbitt

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The proposals to mine on part of the Gairloch Estate have sparked questions locally.
The proposals to mine on part of the Gairloch Estate have sparked questions locally.

The owner of land at Gairloch that could host a commercial gold mine has backed residents’ calls for a community benefit fund.

Duncan MacKenzie, of Gairloch Estate, suggested his estate could also use cash from the mine to stop the area turning into a “retirement village.”

He was responding to calls from the community council and local MSPs for a community benefit fund to be established – similar to those provided by wind farm developers – should a commercial gold mine get the go ahead in the Kerrysdale area.

Mr Mackenzie said that he had already had discussions about a community benefit fund with Galantas Gold, the Canadian mining firm that now owns the rights to develop the mine.

“Part of the reason I’m going down this road with Galantas is because they’re keen on making sure there is a commitment locally,” he said.

“I would always do something like that for any significant development on the estate.”

He added that “a combination” of investment directly from the estate in the local community and through a community benefit fund controlled by locals may be a possibility if a commercial mine does eventually get the go ahead.

“Once we’ve got a bit more quantification of the deposit, then it’s going to be much easier to be able to formulate a sensible, more tailored plan as to what’s there and therefore what community benefit can be made.”

The mine could provide the estate the means to regenerate the area, by creating some “longer term commercial opportunities,” he said, adding that the mine would, “enable me to look at building some slightly more sensibly priced housing.

“Local folk get consistently priced out by holiday homeowners from the south. There’s a wider longer term commitment from my perspective to actually regenerate to an extent and hopefully try and move away from the kind of slight retirement village feel that Gairloch is turning into.”

A Gairloch Community Council meeting in June saw locals back the idea of a community benefit fund linked to the proposed mine though locals also raised concerns over a lack of consultation and communication from the mining firm after a series of Freedom of Information requests revealed it had already sought permission to drill test bores, including one 400m deep.

MSPs Ariane Burgess and Maree Todd also backed calls for better communication with locals.

But Mr Mackenzie hit back at the criticism.

“I’m available locally,” he said. “Everyone’s got my number. There’s no kind of separation between management of the estate and the community.”

He said no formal consultation process had been undertaken yet because Galantas Gold were still working out detailed proposals and assessing the scale of the Kerrysdale deposit.

“The main reason for not having a formal public consultation in that respect yet is because we’re waiting to get the results of these analyses before we have a more accurate idea of what will or won’t be happening,” he said.

“So better to inform people in the knowledge of what the plan is than informing them that something may be happening, but we don’t know what it is.”

Community council member Alex Gray said: “If the venture were to go ahead, I’m sure the community would hope to see a benefit fund established, just as some local communities have in connection with wind farms, and the community council would be keen to discuss this with Galantas.”

Galantas Gold were contacted for comment but did not respond.

In a recent online interview about the Gairloch deposits, the firm’s chief executive, Mario Stifano, said: “These gold rich systems are very hard to find. We think that we’ve got something here. We’re pretty confident based on the amount of outcrops that have been identified over about 10km that this could be something that is extraordinarily interesting for our shareholders.

“Gairloch has got cobalt, it’s got copper, those are all critical minerals, there’s even nickel identified in this area of Scotland. That’s why when we saw these opportunities we just locked up the ground.”

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