A planning application to develop a new barite mine at Duntanlich, north of Aberfeldy, has been lodged with Perth & Kinross Council by oilfield services company, M-I SWACO – a giant oil services company which employs more than 13,000 people and is in itself part of the even bigger Schlumberger conglomerate
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 is also used as a value-added application in the automobile and medical industries.
The proposed mine is a replacement for the company’s mine at Foss, which has operated since 1985.
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 vitally important to the North Sea oil and gas industry, ensuring security of supply.
The planning application follows extensive community consultation, with events held in Ballinluig, Pitlochry and Aberfeldy and meetings with key stakeholders, to inform the proposals.
The Foss barite deposit has a complex geological structure making it increasingly difficult to mine. In comparison, a mine at Duntanlich, boasting a resource in excess of 7.5 million tonnes of barite which has a simple geological structure, could supply the whole of the UK’s requirements for more than 50 years at planned production rates.
The Duntanlich development would provide skilled employment for around 30 people, drawn from the local area, where employment is largely reliant on tourism and forestry. There could also be 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 new proposal and careful design has now ensured that previous concerns, such as visual impact and impact on the road network, have been addressed.
Production of 120,000 tonnes per annum is proposed.