Proposals to secure stability of Kilroot salt mine

Deep inside the salt mines at Kilroot   INCT 27-414-RM
Deep inside the salt mines at Kilroot INCT 27-414-RM

Plans aimed at securing the long-term stability of Kilroot salt mine are to be submitted to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

The Irish Salt Mining and Exploration Company (ISME) has revealed proposals for an underground Air Pollution Control residue (APCr) recovery facility.

The project would see APCr – a by-product of incineration at Energy from Waste facilities– used to infill parts of the mine.

The method has been used to support the void spaces of underground salt mines in Germany for over 20 years.

And ISME believes using APCr to replace existing grouting materials such as cement would help secure the long-term safety and stabilty of the Kilroot mine, which extends north towards Ballycarry.

There are currently no APCr recovery facilities on the island of Ireland, and there is only one Energy from Waste facility, which is located in Co Meath.

This generates about 10,000 tonnes of APCr each year, which is exported to mainland Europe for recovery in salt mines.

ISME estimates the proposed facility at Kilroot could take up to 50,000 tonnes of APCr per year.

A pre-planning document, published on behalf of the company by consultants SLR, states: “Prior to transporting to the ISME recovery facility, the APCr is to be pre-treated offsite by mixing with water and placing the material in.......bags.

“Mixing with water causes a reaction which solidifys the APCr into a block of sufficient strength to permenantly support the mine workings.”

The bagged APCr will be transported to Kilroot by road, with one truck delivering material to the site every hour.

It is proposed the facility would operate from Monday to Saturday, 7am-5pm.

The company has also claimed there will be no nuisance through noise and odours beyond the site boundary, as the principal recovery operations are to be conducted underground.

ISME project manager, Jason Hopps told the Times: “It is ISME’s duty to mainatin the long-term stability of the mine and hand it back to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in a safe and stable condition.

“Salt mines are highly suitable environments for containing APCr, so adopting the German approach to APCr management will have a positive impact on the long-term stability of the Kilroot mine.”

ISME has claimed the facility would provide employment for four to 10 people.

Meanwhile, Ballycarry residents have said they “want more answers” regarding the proposals.

About a dozen members of the public attended an information session hosted by ISME at Ballycarry Community Centre recently.

The consultation event was designed to provide details on the upcoming planning application for the proposed facility.

But one resident told the Times: “Local people share a number of concerns regarding this proposal, and we need more information.”

The resident, who did not wish to be named, added: “One worry would be the increase of heavy vehicle traffic.

“The proposed facility would take in up to 50,000 tonnes of this material each year, which would equate to a truck making deliveries every hour.

“Some people are also concerned about the properties of the APCr material the company is proposing to use.

“There are a number of other fears surrounding this project, and what we really want at this stage is further information.”

Responding to these concerns, Mr Hopps told the Times: “This project is still in the pre-planning stage, so its is subject to consultation with the public and statutory agencies.

“We will be holding another information session in Ballycarry Community Centre on Friday, December 4 from 11am-1pm.

“If you would like to comment on the proposal or discuss with a member of the project team then please come along to the event or email or write to Jason Hopps, Irish Salt Mining & Exploration Co Ltd, 10 Fort Road, Kilroot, Carrickfergus, BT38 9BT,” Mr Hopps concluded.