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Dalradian outlines future £15m skills development programme

Dalradian, which has spent £130m over the past decade on works and studies to support its planning application for an environmentally responsible, underground gold-silver-copper mine in west Tyrone, has announced details of its future plans for a three-year, £15m skills development package.

The mine will directly employ around 350 people when operational and create around 1,000 jobs in total when indirect and induced jobs are included. Based on the experience of other mines, Dalradian anticipates that it will recruit at least 90% of its employees from the local area.

The initial £15m programme will coincide with the mine’s two-year construction and its first full year of underground operations. Further training will then be provided on an ongoing basis to maintain and develop additional skills.

Given the high-tech nature of modern mining, Dalradian plans to make extensive use of virtual reality tools and simulators. The technology is similar to that used to train aircraft pilots and has already been demonstrated at Omagh-based South West College. The company will also provide hands-on experience with mining equipment adapted for training purposes.

The programme will be supported by an international mining school with a track record in delivering training and by accessing training support from South West College.

Patrick FN Anderson, Dalradian’s President and CEO, said: “Tyrone has impressively strong and globally recognised manufacturing, quarrying, engineering and construction sectors which draw upon the same skills of ingenuity and practical problem solving practised in mining. Based on a decade of doing business in Northern Ireland I’m very confident that at least 90% of Dalradian’s 350 full-time employees will be recruited locally.

“We are seeking to fill a wide range of jobs, both above and under the ground, from office support through to mechanics, electricians plus those who want to become highly skilled miners. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, young or old, we will need a good mix of those just starting their careers and those with plenty of life experience.”

“Covid-19 has created a very uncertain economic climate, but as the lockdown eases attention is turning to how to support economic recovery. This will be one of the largest private sector investments in training west of the Bann.”

“Mining jobs are highly technical, which is why our average salary will be twice the Northern Ireland average. Should the mine receive planning permission we will begin recruiting and training staff during the mine’s two-year construction phase. This could be as early as the second half of 2021.”

Initial training and mining operations will be provided by overseas mining specialists, but the skills development package will provide a managed transition to a predominantly local workforce. Dalradian intend to develop the training in-house and may deliver it in conjunction with the local college.

Training will occur in three stages starting with health and safety before progressing to job specific roles using virtual reality, simulators, training equipment and, finally, supervised on-the-job training.

Examples of mining roles to be recruited and developed locally include operators of specialist underground equipment such as ground support bolters, haul trucks, ‘jumbos’ which are used for drilling and ‘scooptrams’ to transport loose rock. Other positions will include millwrights, blasters, electricians and welders, plus support roles including HR, administration and IT.

Stephen Kelly, Manufacturing NI’s CEO, said: “These are incredibly difficult days with the challenges of Covid and Brexit meaning that there is a likelihood that many in manufacturing and other industries will lose their jobs. It is important, therefore, that we invest in our recovery, providing work and ensuring communities across the North can rebuild.

“The Minister for the Economy has launched her plan which is focused on higher paying jobs, a highly skilled and agile workforce and a more regionally balanced economy.  This planned investment by Dalradian in the people of west Tyrone and its hinterland meets all those ambitions and would represent one of the biggest private investments we have seen in skills delivery to equip people for well paid, sustainable jobs.”

Peter McKenna, Dalradian’s Community Relations Manager, added: “As we’ve already received 3,000 expressions of interest in working with Dalradian, it’s clear that the appeal of a career in modern mining is strong. This is particularly true in Tyrone where the skills of our farming community and successful engineering base are so readily transferable.”

“Dalradian’s commitment to training is already evident. Since 2014 the company has provided 15,000 hours of training to the current team, including international travel to operational mines, work exchanges and access to Higher Education programmes. Many of us, myself included, have been able to develop and pursue careers at home thanks to the opportunities that mining brings.”

“This, however, is a major economic opportunity for all of Northern Ireland. We will create around 1,000 direct and indirect jobs during the mine’s 20-25 year life and an entirely new, environmentally responsible industry. On top of that, the two-year construction period will deliver a £130m investment and create 300 construction jobs.”

“Other Irish mines such as Lisheen and Tara have led to spin-out firms in training and logistical support, and we’re looking to partner with Tyrone’s world-class materials manufacturing firms to develop a centre of excellence to explore new markets. There’s also an opportunity for the local education sector to establish itself as a training hub for the industry across the UK and Ireland.”

Dalradian submitted its planning application in November 2017 and provided further environmental information in August 2019. The application is still under consideration. Dalradian has welcomed the recent confirmation by the Infrastructure Minister that the planning application will be the subject of an independent Public Inquiry.

Additional information on career opportunities and Dalradian’s existing internship programme, which has provided work experience for 35 university students so far, is available at www.dalradian.com