Monday, May 20, 2024

Tara Mines owner Boliden gets green light for €20m solar-energy plans

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This follows Meath Co Council granting planning permission to Boliden Tara Mines DAC for the solar farm which is to provide “a secure source of clean, renewably generated energy to the Tara Mines facility”.

The proposed development will not connect to the national electricity grid but will, instead, connect to the existing electricity substation located within the Tara Mines site.

A spokesman for Boliden said: “As we look to safeguard the long-term future of the mine, we have been exploring ways to improve our sustainability performance and establish greater control over our energy costs.”

“We note the decision that has been made by Meath County Council, and a final decision on whether to construct a solar farm will be taken at a later date.”

A report on the development’s socio-economic benefits points out that Tara Mines is a very large energy consumer.

It states that the solar farm providing power to Tara Mines would “insulate the site from large fluctuations in energy costs”.

The report states that as a consequence, “it is likely that the financial benefits (savings) to Tara Mines arising from the operation of the proposed development will allow for significant reinvestment of these funds into the site”.

This investment “is likely to support the existing workforce and create further employment opportunities in the future”, the report said.

The planning permission for the solar farm comes only one week after Boliden reached a proposed deal with unions for the phased reopening of Tara Mines.

Production at the Co Meath facility ceased last July resulting in the lay-off of 650 workers after what the company said were “significant and unsustainable financial losses” amid falling zinc prices globally.

The planning permission also follows recently filed consolidated 2023 accounts for Tara Mines Holdings DAC where directors stated that energy costs were one of the drivers behind increased operating costs last year.

The mining firm recorded pre-tax losses of €67.46m in 2023 after revenues decreased by 61pc to €98m due to the decision to suspend production last summer, along with lower zinc prices.

One objection was lodged by local resident Kieran O’Sullivan who said the solar farm’s size “is totally inappropriate for a site so close to residential properties in the rural area of Liscarton”.

He stated that the farm involves 31,000 solar panels. Mr O’Sullivan of The Willows, Liscarton, Navan said: “The visual impact of such a large industrial solar farm would fundamentally change the tranquil character of the area.

“We believe solar farms should be appropriately located on already industrialised land, on roof tops or adjacent to motorways, not on productive agricultural land.”

He said that instead of looking out onto peaceful agricultural fields, residents will be looking out at a field full of glass and steel fabrications.

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