The famous red mud fields at Aughinish
RUSAL Alumina at Aughinish will be able to bypass local planning regulations as part of its application to increase its operation.
An Bord Pleanála has ruled a proposed extension of an extraction facility at what’s the continent’s biggest facility of its kind can be considered under the fast-track planning process.
It means an application can go straight to the national authority.
Aughinish Alumina believe the project was of strategic economic importance to both the State and the Mid-West – citing an opinion from the European Commission that bauxite is considered a critical raw material across the continent.
The firm is seeking to increase the height of its large bauxite residue disposal area (BRDA) which covers an area of 183 hectares. It claims the increased height will provide an additional nine-year capacity for storing bauxite residue at the facility and allow for the disposal of 1.59 million tonnes per annum.
But the decision to bypass local planners has been described as a “disaster” for the local community by the Cappagh Farmers Support Group.
In a statement, the group said: “Aughinish has used its power to ensure that locals are being bypassed if they want to lodge objections at local level to concerns that they may have to such planning or other concerns to human health been affected in their area from such proposals.”
The group said many farmers have reported an increase in health problems among their herds.
“This is worrying as farmers could be seeing bad days returning and Aughinish bypassing locals with planning applications will keep this at arm length,” the group said in a statement.
The Cappagh Farmers Group believes the EPA – which will also have to grant a fresh licence – underestimates the amount of red toxic mud on the Aughinish plant.
They warn this could lead to an environmental “disaster” on the estuary.