A new report by environmental group Friends of the Earth has found that the mining company Clarks Construction is one of the three coal mining companies that have been identified as being involved in a series of dangerous and illegal underground mines in Northern Ireland.
Clarks Construction, based in Cork, Ireland, has been implicated in one of three mines that have contaminated drinking water sources in the country, the report found.
The company was found guilty of dumping waste water into an area of the Lough Foyle Reservoir, which is also known as the Liffey.
The waste water, which was released into the ground by the company, has also been linked to the deaths of dozens of people, including children.
The water, contained in a small underground tank, is known as a leaching tank.
In April last year, the company was fined £5.3m for failing to maintain an appropriate environmental impact statement.
Clark Construction has not yet commented on the report, but in a statement, a company spokesperson said: “The Environmental Protection Agency has identified a number of mines where Clarks Development is operating, including a number in Ireland, and has recommended that they be shut down.
We are now working with the Irish authorities to close all mines, and have asked them to suspend the operation of the existing mines in Ireland until such time as the remediation of the site is complete.”
The company is one on three that have since been shut down, with the remaining two being operated by other companies.
Friends of The Earth said the environmental impact of the mines is now likely to be around £20m per year.
The report, called Clarks Mining in Ireland: A Dirty Tricks Business, found that Clarks had a history of failing to adhere to environmental requirements and regulations.
The Environmental Integrity Unit at the Environment Agency found that a number years ago, the environmental regulator issued a final environmental impact assessment of the company’s operations.
It found that in a number or cases, the pollution from the Clarks mining operation was ‘grossly disproportionate’ to the surrounding environment.
The unit concluded that the company had been ‘systematically failing to take measures to prevent or reduce the environmental damage’ in the Laffey and Foyle.
The environmental impact assessments also revealed that Clams mining operations were ‘generally failing to meet the statutory requirements for safe operation and monitoring of the mine, and were also failing to follow appropriate environmental and engineering practices’.
The Environmental Health Unit of the Environment Protection Agency concluded that in some instances, ‘serious health risks’ were not adequately mitigated or mitigated in the context of the conditions of the mining operations.
A Clarks spokesperson said in a spokesperson to the Irish Independent: “Clarks Development has a very robust environmental programme, which we have been very clear to our suppliers, to the industry, and to our employees and contractors.
In this instance, we took immediate action to protect the health of our staff and contractors, and we remain committed to doing the same.
We have worked with the Health Protection Agency to develop a series or monitoring schemes that address any issues raised by the Environmental Integrity Units assessment.
We have a number plans in place for future monitoring, which have been adopted by the Clams Mining Group.
Cliffs Mining Group also said in its response to the report that it had worked with Environment Protection authorities and authorities in Ireland to monitor and minimise the environmental impacts associated with Clarks activities.
The Clams Group said that it ‘fully cooperates with the authorities’ and that the environmental integrity of Clams activities has been assessed, and that there have been no serious adverse environmental impacts.
In an interview with the Independent, Dr Fiona O’Connor, of Friends of Nature Ireland, said that she was concerned by the report.”
There’s no question that the environment has been seriously compromised, because of the scale and scale of this,” she said.”
Clarks is a company that has a history for having a poor environmental record, in terms of their compliance with environmental laws.
“I think it’s very disappointing that the report has been published.”
Clarks has not responded to the latest findings.