Frequently Asked Questions

Please find below answers to some frequently asked questions. If you cannot find the answer to a question you have please feel free to Contact Us

Background

What is barite?

Barite or barytes (barium sulphate) is a mineral largely used as a weighting agent for drilling fluids in oil and gas exploration.

Other uses of barite are in added-value applications, such as:

  • fillers in paint and plastics
  • sound reduction in engine compartments
  • friction products for automobiles and trucks
  • radiation-shielding concrete e.g. for X-ray rooms
  • glass ceramics
  • medical applications e.g. a barium meal before a CAT scan

Why a barite mine at Duntanlich?

This is the only known significant barite orebody in the UK that is economic to work. The Duntanlich mine could supply the whole of the UK’s requirements for more than 50 years at planned production rates, ensuring a guaranteed indigenous supply of barite for the UK North Sea oil and gas industry.

What happened to the previous proposal?

A previous application was turned down on appeal at the Court of Session in 1996. This was largely on environmental grounds. However, in terms of the current proposal environmental studies have taken place over the last 3 years, addressing the issues which led to the previous application being turned down, such as visual impact and impact on the road network. These have now been substantially reduced.

What about the current mine at Foss?

M-I SWACO currently operates a barite mine at Foss. Foss is a small mine with a complex geology and as it gets deeper this useful mineral is becoming harder and less economical to obtain.

How much barite could the proposed Duntanlich mine produce?

The mine could produce 120,000 tonnes of barite per annum (around three times the average output of Foss) from an underground operation with a surface footprint less than a quarter of Foss. This is enough to make the UK self-sufficient in barite.

Is there no alternative you can use?

Barite fulfils a specific role within the oil and gas industry. Other materials have been tested such as calcium carbonate and ilmenite have been extensively tested but do not meet the same standards of performance, in some cases adversely affecting the operation of downhole tools.

When will the mining activity start?

It is anticipated that tunnel excavation will start in Summer 2019, with the first barite production from this world class resource in Spring 2020.

What will happen to the current Foss mine?

Foss will run down over a 6 month period once production starts from Duntanlich, with closure and site remediation over a further 6 months.

What is the potential community benefit arising from the mine development?

There will be community benefit through the provision of sustainable employment opportunities (see next section).

In addition the proposed routing for the heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) carrying barite will remove the current Foss mine traffic from over 33km of the Tay Valley. Villages, other settlements and minor roads will therefore be bypassed.

The new access will also be made available to Atholl Estate for timber haulage, so reducing their need to use the very poor junction in Logierait village.

Employment

How many people do you plan to employ from the local community?

Around 30 skilled jobs could be directly created, mainly drawn from a local community which is largely reliant on tourism and forestry for employment. There could also be indirect employment opportunities for local suppliers and contractors.

What qualifications are required to work at the mine?

Miners are generally trained on the job or we bring in specialist trainers as required. Specialists such as mining engineers or geologists have tertiary qualifications, either degrees or appropriate National Occupational Standards (NOS) equivalents.

Will you offer apprenticeships?

There may be an opportunity for an engineering apprentice.

Do you expect the mine business will create jobs for local subcontractors and if it does what type?

As is the case currently there will be rock transportation and general site maintenance requirements, as well as support for onsite mechanical and electrical work.

Impacts

Do you plan to have mining activity 24/7?

No. It is anticipated that mining shifts will generally follow a standard 12 hour shift from 0700 to 1900 Monday to Friday.

What will the impact of development be on landscapes, plants and animals?

Extensive environmental assessment work has been undertaken over the last 3 years. These include habitat, protected species and ornithological studies, as well as landscape and visual envelope studies.

This has indicated that there is no flora or fauna in the area that will be adversely affected. Likewise it has minimised any potential landscape impacts from the mine development by working around natural features and using existing access roads as much as possible.

Will the mine be visible from the surrounding area?

Using modern software it is possible to overlay the view from any of the significant local viewpoints onto the model of the mine site and access route. This shows that there is no or minimal visibility. The mine site and access route cannot be seen, for example, from the Queen’s View.

Will the local community hear noise from the mine operation and if so how much?

A full noise assessment will take place and form part of the planning application. Noise levels from the proposed operations will comply with government guidelines.

Will there be any hazardous waste generated through mining?

No. The Duntanlich mine operations do not involve the use of chemicals or other harmful substances and in addition any non-barite rock that may be produced during mining operations is also inert and will be used for backfilling old workings.

What happens to the waste generated through mining?

M-I SWACO selectively mine so that the barite needs no processing and there is therefore no requirement for a tailings impoundment. Any waste rock from mining the access tunnels is stored then either used to backfill old workings or for road repairs. Any operational waste e.g. workshop or office is collected and either recycled or disposed of according to regulations and corporate standards.

How can the community be certain that there will be no pollution of ground water?

All discharges will have to comply with Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) requirements and they routinely monitor these.

What about air pollution?

Ore stocks will be enclosed as will be the crushing operation and the bottom haul road will be tarmacadamed. Operations will be monitored for dust generation and actions taken accordingly. In the usually damp local conditions this is not expected to be an issue.

What kind of health and safety control systems will you have at the mine?

The mining operations will comply with all relevant legislation e.g. mining, environmental, health & safety at work as well as the high corporate standards of our parent company, Schlumberger. See http://www.slb.com/hse.aspx for further information.

What kind of emergency plan do you have for accidental pollution?

The Duntanlich mine operations will follow the mine emergency plan, similar to that already developed for Foss, which outlines actions to be taken and who to contact in such an event.

Have you received any complaints from neighbours of the Foss mine?

No. Foss has operated for some 30 years, with road haulage from the mine access gate on the Tummel Bridge to the yard in Aberfeldy for crushing, sampling and blending, then onwards to Ballinluig to join the A9.

Who pays for any environmental clean-up work when the mine is abandoned?

M-I SWACO will do as part of the closure plans. If for any reason the company cannot there will be a bond in place to finance the required work.

Transport

How much traffic will the transportation of barite generate?

The full permitted production will generate an average of 17 heavy goods vehicle movements a day (each way) leaving and entering the transfer site from the road network. However, current market conditions suggest initial output will be somewhat less than this. Personnel transport and suppliers will generate around 6 light vehicle movements.

Will the increase in barite transportation have any environmental impact?

Traffic and therefore environmental impacts will be minimised as the proposed routing of the heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) carrying barite removes the current Foss mine traffic from over 33km of the Tay Valley. Villages, other settlements and minor roads will therefore be bypassed.

Are the roads dimensioned for this traffic increase?

Both the specially constructed access track and haul road will be dimensioned for this increase in traffic. The tarmacademed haul road will join the A827 on a modern section less than 1km from the A9 Ballinluig junction and will be routed to Aberdeen via Perth or to Perth Harbour.

Will the roads/trucks be visible to any of the neighbours?

A very small number of properties on the east side of Logierait will have a partial view of the trucks as they pass in the middle distance across the field, though they will be closer to one property that belongs to the estate.

This section of road will carry an average of 17 heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) a day each way, operating daytime Monday to Friday. Any estate forestry traffic will be accommodated on the mine access route, which should be a benefit to these properties.