Proposal for barite mine near Aberfeldy to deliver vital resource for North Sea oil and gas industry launched

Proposals to develop the world class barite resource at Duntanlich, north of Aberfeldy, have been announced today (12th January) by oilfield services company, M-I SWACO.

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.

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 Foss barite deposit has a complex geological structure making it difficult to mine. With increasing depth this mineral is getting harder and more expensive to obtain. In comparison, a mine at Duntanlich, boasting a resource in excess of 7.5 million tonnes of barite, could supply the whole of the UK’s requirements for more than 50 years at planned production rates.

The Duntanlich development could provide skilled employment for around 30 people, mainly 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.

New proposal integrates results of 3 years of environmental studies

A previous planning application to develop the Duntanlich resource was turned down in 1996 on the grounds of potential environmental impact. However, three years of environmental studies have informed the new proposal.

Careful design has now ensured that previous concerns, such as visual impact and impact on the road network, have been addressed, and M-I SWACO has now entered into pre-application discussions with Perth & Kinross Council.

The new proposal has reduced the annual production of the mine from 200,000 tonnes to 120,000 tonnes. It has also located the development so that there is no visibility from the highly sensitive Queen’s View and no or minimal visibility of it from the rest of the surrounding area.

The proposed new access route into the site from the A827 close to the A9 Ballinluig junction will remove mine traffic from the settlements in the Tay valley.

M-I SWACO is intending to submit a planning application for the mine in spring 2015 following extensive consultation with local communities and a series of community engagement events will take place in February in Ballinluig, Pitlochry and Aberfeldy, with dates announced nearer the time. If the proposals are approved by Perth and Kinross Council production could begin towards the end of 2017.

A website has been launched – www.duntanlich.com – which will provide information on the development.

Ian Hughes, Project Manager for M-I SWACO said:

“We are clearly delighted to be able to announce our proposals, which 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 & Kinross Council we could see barite being extracted by the end of 2017.

“We will engage extensively with the local community and all stakeholders in due course to ensure the success of this important project for both the local area as well as nationally.”

-ENDS-

For further information please contact:

Alex Orr at Orbit Communications on 0131 603 8996, alex.orr@orbit-comms.co.uk

Nuala McClenaghan – M-I SWACO Communications, 01224 766255, NMcclenaghan@slb.com

Notes to Editors

Image of Ian Hughes available on request.

About M-I SWACO

M-I SWACO is the leading supplier of drilling fluid systems, engineered to improve drilling performance, and as such is a vital part of the world’s hydrocarbon exploration and production industry.

The company employs 13,000 people in more than 80 countries and in 2010 became part of Schlumberger, the world’s largest oilfield services company.