By DARA BUTTERFIELD
Proposals have been announced for a barite mine north of Aberfeldy by oil field services company, M-I SWACO. The mine will supply the North Sea oil and gas industry as barite is largely used as a weighting agent for drilling fluids in oil and gas exploration.
The proposed mine, which could create around 30 skilled jobs, is a replacement for the company’s mine at Foss, which has operated since 1985.
A previous planning application was turned down in 1996 on the grounds of potential environmental impact. However, the new proposal now addresses those concerns, such as visual impact and impact on the road network, and M-I SWACO has now entered into pre-application discussions with Perth & Kinross Council.
Ian Hughes, Project Manager for M-I SWACO, said: “Our proposals will ensure the UK is self-sufficient in barite. Such a project will not only have a significant positive local economic impact, diversifying the economy of this rural area where employment is 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 have learnt a lot from the time of the previous application and have made significant adjustments to our proposals. Should these be approved by Perth council we could see barite being extracted by the end of 2017.”
The new proposal has reduced the annual production of the mine from 200,000 tonnes to 120,000 tonnes and sited the development so that there is minimal visibility of it from the surrounding area, including the highly sensitive Queen’s View.