Mining barite at the M-I SWACO Foss mine (photo: M-I SWACO)
Proposals to develop a world-class barite resource at Duntanlich, north of Aberfeldy, have been approved by Perth & Kinross Council councillors today (14th September), subject to conditions.
The mine, proposed by oilfield services company, M-I SWACO, is a replacement for the company’s mine at Foss, which has operated since 1985, but with a much smaller surface footprint.
The Duntanlich orebody is unique in the UK. It is the only known significant barite deposit that is economic to work and will enable the UK to become self-sufficient in a mineral vital to the North Sea oil and gas industry, ensuring security of supply.
The planning process saw extensive community consultation to inform the proposal, with events held in Ballinluig, Pitlochry and Aberfeldy and meetings with key stakeholders, Support was received from individuals and organisations including Perthshire and Aberdeen and Grampian Chambers of Scotland and CBI Scotland and SCDI (Scottish Council for Development and Industry).
Barite is largely used as a weighting agent for drilling fluids in oil and gas exploration and there is no substitute with all the essential properties of this mineral. It also used as a value added product in the automobile and medical industries and as a weighting agent in civil engineering.
The Foss barite deposit has a complex geological structure which has made it increasingly difficult to mine. In comparison, a mine at Duntanlich, which has a simple geological structure, will supply the whole of the UK’s requirements for 50 years at planned production rates.
The Duntanlich development will provide skilled employment for around 30 people, drawn from the local area, where employment is largely reliant on tourism and forestry. The development will also provide indirect employment opportunities for local suppliers and contractors.
A previous planning application to develop the Duntanlich resource was turned down in 1996. Three years of environmental studies have informed the current proposals and careful design has now ensured that previous concerns, such as visual impact and impact on the road network, have been addressed.
The development proposals ensure that there is no visibility from the highly sensitive Queen’s View and minimal visibility from the surrounding area.
The site access, taken from the A827 close to the A9 Ballinluig junction, will remove existing Foss mine traffic from the settlements in the Tay valley. Production of up to 120,000 tonnes per annum is proposed.
Ian Hughes, Project Manager for M-I SWACO says, “We are clearly pleased that the committee has minded to grant our planning application subject to conditions and would like to thank those who supported us throughout this process. The new mine will ensure that the UK is self-sufficient in barite and will not only have a significant positive local economic impact, diversifying the economy of this rural area where employment is largely reliant on tourism and forestry, but will also have national significance in terms of providing vital continuity of supply for the North Sea oil and gas industry. We learnt a lot from the previous application and were able to make significant improvements to our proposals.”