The red ponds at Aughinish as photographed in 2017
LIMERICK City and County Council has granted permission for the “blasting” of rock on the grounds of Aughinish Alumina, subject to conditions.
The controversial proposal led to protests and a petition by activists last year, after the initial plans were made public in the submission stage of planning.
The application outlines plans by Rusal - the Russian company that owns the Aughinish plant near Foynes - to extract rock for use in the plant operations.
The permission has been granted subject to 10 conditions.
It is understood that Aughinish will now have to seek a review of their EPA licence, so that it encompasses this new activity, which is not covered by their current licence.
Those opposing the plans had fears about any disturbance to the ground caused by the proposed rock blasting, and the effect that it could have on the walls of the bauxite residue disposal area (BRDA) - which contains a waste byproduct from the refining of aluminum.
The material is sometimes referred to as ‘red mud’, and it is highly alkaline. Protesters are concerned about the environmental impact of what they perceive as a possible spillage of the waste, due to “rock blasting”, or extraction, from the ground nearby.
A petition with more than a thousand signatures in opposition to the planning application was handed into council offices last summer.
Ten year permission was sought for a site of seven hectares adjacent to the plant, with an extraction area of 4.5 hectares. The extraction area is sought up to a depth of 8.5m, and blasting would occur between April and September each year for a decade.
More to follow in upcoming editions of the Limerick Leader.