Diamond find puts glitter into Emerald Isle

The sleepy valleys of Donegal used to nothing louder than the sound of fly fishermen casting lines could soon face a rush of Klondike proportions following a British company's announcement that important diamond reserves may exist there.

Cambridge Mineral Resources, based in Thetford, Norfolk, confirmed that it has located minerals closely associated with diamond and sapphire deposits near Malin Head in Donegal's Inishowen peninsula.

Suggestions that Europe's answer to Kimberley - South Africa's diamond- mining centre - may lie beneath their feet have created a stir among Donegal residents amid hopes of new prosperity. But some fear environmental damage in an unspoilt region with significant tourism potential.

The peninsula - population 30,000 - is one of the poorest parts of Ireland, dependent for employment on sheep farming, some fishing at the north end where the port of Greencastle is home to Ireland's fishing school. Inishowen suffers from being cut off by the border from its natural capital, Derry city. Its airport would be the main access route for overseas visitors.

Securing suitable mining labour should be easy. Traditionally many locals have left for work in Scotland and England. Emigrants from west Donegal and neighbouring Mayo have long provided "tunnel rats" to build motorways, drainage schemes and the Channel tunnel.

Locally, clothing giant Fruit of the Loom has a large factory in Buncrana on Inishowen's west side with a predominantly female workforce. Its satellite plant near Malin Head, in the main prospecting area, employs another 100 workers.

Bernard McGuinness, a publican and Donegal councillor from nearby Culdaff, said: "There is certainly a need for male employment. But I would be very concerned about our landscape. Inishowen is moving dramatically towards tourism, though we don't want to become 'neon-signed tourism' like Killarney. Donegal is unique in that it is not commercialised tourism; it is one of the unspoilt beauty spots. People are becoming more conscious of that."

Last year, Inishowen secured Ireland's only European Union blue flag beach award.

He is suspicious that Cambridge has generated media coverage before local representatives were advised about mine plans. He says he would be unhappy at the mining firm's lack of consultation with local communities and would fear any open-cast methods that created large waste tips.

Mr McGuinness also fears that the embryonic Inishowen angling co-operative's plan to draw tourists to the noted salmon and sea trout fishing waters of the Crana, Culdaff and Owenkillew rivers could also be undermined by the impact of Cambridge's excavation.

"Anything that threatened that would not be tolerated. As far as I'm concern there are more jobs in that than there would be in mining," he said.

Local Fianna Fail TD (MP) Cecilia Keaveney, who lives in Moville also on the peninsula's eastern coast, foresees interest, especially from men, in mining jobs. But she agrees tourism offers stronger long-term employment prospects.

"The potential for tourism is massive. But after the ceasefire broke down last year 49 per cent of businesses here felt they had had a poor year in tourism. So in that way we are gasping for any support we can get," she said. " Diamonds, obviously, are a girl's best friend, so let's face it, nobody will say no if they can be extracted at reasonable cost, not only to the people but to the environment. Then it would be welcomed."

International excitement sparked by first hints of the gem-bearing minerals two years ago meant that all 180-odd Irish prospecting licences available were quickly snapped up, mainly by Canadian interests.

Cambridge's chairman, Bob Young, said early Inishowen test results were "absolutely astonishing" in highlighting kimberlitic and lamproitic rocks at all sample locations. These minerals, consistent with diamond and sapphire finds, were also present in Scottish sites where what he claimed "world- class" sapphires were discovered.

Electro-magnetic panning had demonstrated the same minerals were abundant in Inishowen. Small blue sapphires were found at one Donegal location, the company said.

It cites a 1995 study by the Geological Survey of Britain which indicated that areas in Ireland and Scotland contained basement rock of sufficient age and depth "to fit within the known window for diamond formation". Cambridge Mineral Resources is also prospecting in Sweden for diamonds and in Spain for emeralds.

Mr Young also predicted that if diamonds were found in commercial quantities it could generate substantial ancillary work, such as gem-cutting.

Following questions on the effect of mining on an area of outstanding beauty heavily reliant on tourism, Mr Young said site studies had not indicated the presence of chemicals such as uranium likely to result in harmful leakages. Separate plans to extract uranium in Donegal in the 1970s were abandoned amid widespread opposition.

Recent attempts to start gold mining in neighbouring Co Mayo met strong opposition amid fears that dangerous chemicals used in extracting metals could seep into the water table.

Cambridge's chief executive, David Bramhill, said his firm may shortly commission an environmental impact study to allay any local fears over the type of mining proposed.

However, local residents point out that this would hardly amount to a concession as it would be obligatory anyway.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Life and Style
life
Sport
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
football
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
News
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn