The Belcoo Anti-fracking Camp

A testament to the strength of the campaign against fracking

Young people, older people, women, men, locals and blow-ins, visitors and those who live in or beside the camp for days or weeks on end – Belcoo camp maintains a constant 24-hour presence at the entrance to the quarry targeted for exploratory drilling.  The photo above shows some young campaigners in front of the entrance to the quarry.  On top of this fence are layers of razor wire, so sharp that an accidental brush against it caused a cut to a local person’s ear.   Behind the fence are security guards.  Patrolling the area are members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Visiting the camp entails turning off the main Enniskillen Road and following the handmade signs to the quarry.  There are signs “no alcohol, no drugs” as well as the expected “No fracking” signs.  Prominant on the fence is the Code of Conduct agreed by the campaigners.  Peaceful protest;  respect each other, the police and people who do not agree with us, no personal attacks; those are some of the conditions.  Also on the fence is pinned the terms of the injunction imposed on “Unknown Persons”, Fermanagh Fracking Aware Network, and other organisations campaigning against fracking.

Belcoo camp 1On a casual visit to the camp last Friday (August 1st) there was a lot of discussion about the injunction and its legality.  It was considered likely that it was not legally sound and that it could be challenged.  There was also much discussion about how the camp could be maintained sustainably – what it needs physically (fridge, freezer, washing machine, bottles of gas, for example), how relationships are built with local people, what will happen in the future.  Present were some people who had experience of similar operations in other parts of the country but mainly people who never would have taken part in campaigns before.  The atmosphere was calm and welcoming, there was a cup of tea offered to all visitors.

One of the most striking elements of the camp was the contrast between the entrance to the target quarry with its undertone of violence and the view on the other side of the lane of the most wonderful Fermanagh countryside – Lough MacNean stretching into the distance, wooded mountains, valleys and that peace that comes with an untouched landscape that obviously has remained the same for thousands of years.  If anything could convince one that fracking must not come to Northern Ireland, this scenario has to. Industrialisation of this area by the fossil fuel industry would be nothing short of sacrilege – one of the most beautiful counties of Ireland, where beauty and landscape heritage abound; a land coming out of a period of conflict where peace is fragile and needs to be nurtured; a people who have farmed the land for generations and have a soul connection with it.  This is no place for an industry such as fracking that would take over vast tracts of land and change them forever.

The Belcoo Camp must be supported by all who support the campaign against fracking.  Everyone who can should visit the camp and stay for as long as they can showing solidarity.  If people want to help, all it takes are the questions, “How can I help?  Is there anything  needed?”   And please pray that this commitment by so many people will result in defeat for the companies that want to take over our land and use it in ways that destroy the fabric of our communities, our environment and our spirit.

Tamboran Prepares for Drilling in Belcoo

drilling rig
It is finally happening! 

Without a Strategic Impact Assessment (SEA) of the proposals for Fracking in Northern Ireland, without Planning Permission, without consultation with residents or, indeed, public representatives, Tamboran Resources are moving in machinary to the Acheson and Glover quarry in Belcoo, County Fermanagh in order to construct a drilling pad and operate a drilling rig as part of their proposal to develop shale gas in Ireland.

According to a letter put through doors in Belcoo by Tamboran Resources on 21st July:

  • The proposal is to drill an exploratory well, 15cm (6″) wide and 750 m (2,500 ft) deep.
  • They will get core samples throughout the length of the bore which they will study to find out the gas (methane) content and its suitability for extraction.
  • There will be NO FRACKING during this stage.

What does this mean – is it safe?  Are there no consequences for the residents or environment?  The following are the steps in this exploratory stage:

  • The operator arrives on site with his first 120 trucks, security people, fencing, razor wire, etc.
  • Builds a pad.
  • Brings on the rig, lighting, cement, portacabins, toilets, generators, compressors
  • Brings on the drilling mud.
  • Drills the well through aquifer.
  • Cements in conductor and then surface casing (you hope)
  • Drills down to 750 m or further
  • Drilling waste collected according to good practice (you hope)
  • Mud and drill waste transported by truck to local waste facility (dump). (This caused radioactive monitors to go off repeatedly in the states.)  Belcoo has high Radon incidence, indicating the presence of Radium or Uranium underground.  The drill waste will be more radioactive than surface soil.

Having said all that, we are not talking about a huge volume of waste.  The core volume would be around 15 cubic metres; drilling mud will add to that.  Total volume less than an average tanker (30 cubic metres).

Environmental issues (not definitive):
  • Composition of drilling mud – chemicals transported on public roads.
  • Protection of aquifer.
  • Safe collection of drilling waste.
  • Disposal of mud drill waste with high radioactivitycontent, heavy metals and possibly petroleum products.
  • Disturbance of community, stress.
Political Response

Statement from Environment Minister Mark H Durkan:

“Under planning rules, this type of exploratory drilling may fall under ‘permitted development’. However, before the company is given permission to proceed, a full “screening” process under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations will be required to ensure that there is no potential for significant environmental impact. I will ensure that this screening process is rigorous and definitive before permitted development rights are considered.”

  • Does this mean that Tamboran Resources cannot drill before they do an EIA?
  • What is the difference between “full screening process” and an EIA?
  • What regulations?  Who determines them?
  • What are “permitted development rights”?
Other factors:
  • If the results of this operation show that the area is suitable for shale gas extraction, Tamboran Resources most likely will apply for further exploratory licences in preparation for shale gas extraction.  Such exploration operations will include high volume hydraulic fracturing (FRACKING)
  • The Petroleum Affairs Divison in Dublin have confirmed that they will accept the results of the Belcoo drilling as fulfilling the requirement of work to be carried out in the context of the Licencing Options originally granted to Tamboran, which expired in February 2013.  This would open the door for further exploratory licences to be granted for drilling in Leitrim/Cavan.

 

 

 

 

Great success for Enniskillen’s meeting

Last tuesday, a meeting organized by Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network (FFAN) was very successful. The meeting took place in the Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen, attended by over 200 people from all over Fermanagh.
First, Dr Aedin Mc Loughlin gave a presentation about shale gas, technical aspects, the situation regarding exploratory and production licences and other issues important to Fermanagh (environment, health, social, economics, etc.)
Then, a panel of experts have discussed with the audience: (on the photo, see from left to the right)
Bridie Sweeney (community coordinator FFAN), Dr Aedin Mc Loughlin, Sean Maguire (fisherman), John Sheridan (farmer, farming coordinator FFAN), Dr Carol O’ Dolan (health coordinator FFAN), Marius Leonard (tourism provider, tourism coordinator FFAN)
If you are interested in viewing a similar presentation, please download this one, which mas made last April.
(Photo AG)

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