Mine project could meet demand for offshore minerals

Proposals for a mine which could supply all the UK’s demand for barite – a mineral vital for the North Sea oil and gas industry – have been submitted to planners.

The mining project could see all of the UK's offshore mineral demands met

Oilfield services company M-I Swaco has lodged the application after months of discussions with Perth and Kinross Council over its bid to develop a barite resource at Duntanlich, north of Aberfeldy.

The proposed mine is a replacement for one at nearby Foss, which has operated since 1985.

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A previous planning application to develop Duntanlich was turned down in 1996 but M-I Swaco said the latest bid ensured that previous concerns, such as visual impact and impact on the road network, have been addressed.

The Duntanlich site is the only known significant barite deposit that is economic to work. M-I Swaco said the development of it will enable the UK to become self-sufficient in the mineral which is largely used as a weighting agent for drilling fluids in oil and gas exploration. It is also used in the automobile and medical industries.

M-I Swaco said the planning application followed extensive community consultation, with events held in Aberfeldy, Ballinluig and Pitlochry and meetings with key stakeholders.

Ian Hughes, project manager for M-I Swaco, which is part of the Schlumberger group, said the project will have a significant positive economic impact in a rural area where employment is currently reliant on tourism and forestry.

“It will also have national significance in terms of providing vital continuity of supply for the North Sea oil and gas industry,” said Hughes.

“We have learnt a lot from the time of the previous application and have made significant adjustments to our proposals. We have engaged extensively with the local community and other key stakeholders to ensure the success of this important project for both the local area as well as nationally.”

The Foss barite deposit has a complex structure making it increasingly difficult to mine. In comparison, a mine at Duntanlich would have an easier to mine resource of more than 7.5 million tonnes of barite. It could supply the UK’s requirements for more than 50 years at planned production rates.

M-I Swaco said the Duntanlich development would provide employment for around 30 people along with opportunities for local suppliers and contractors.