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IRISH GOLD IS OWNED BY QUEEN.

Byline: By DONNA CARTON

IT'S the first Irish gold ever to be mined commercially... but every nugget belongs to the Queen of England.

Under licence from Her Majesty, the controversial gold mine goes into full production next week for the first time.

The mine has already produced an array of Celtic design jewellery, which now has a global market.

The Galantas Collection, made from the gold mined in the Sperrin Mountains near Omagh in Co Tyrone, is a big seller.

Former US president Bill Clinton is a fan of the jewellery. He was given a shamrock lapel pin when the plant first went into production in 2001.

Following exploration in the Sperrins, an initial 180 ounces of gold was taken from the Cavanacaw mine.

All the jewellery made to date has been created from that first find.

But now Galantas, which faced fierce opposition from environmentalists and some locals, is ready to go into full production.

The company believes the veins will yield about 30,000 ounces a year.

Maurice Lavigne, the general manager, said: "We are ready to roll and very excited.

"Once we are in full production, we will increase the range of designs and styles of the jewellery and increase the volume. We plan to launch a fresh marketing campaign internationally, in particular the US.

"The company is proud of its 100 per cent Irish range and the jewellery is the first to be produced from certified Irish gold.

"The funny thing is, it all belongs to the Queen of England and we mine it and produce jewellery from it under licence."

Despite the imminent closure of the mine at Dolgellau in North Wales, Galantas has no need to gift any of its precious metal to the royal family just yet.

Mr Lavigne said: "The Queen was given a kilogram of pure Welsh gold in the 1980s, which should keep the royal family in wedding rings for quite some time. So, we won't need to give the royal family any Irish gold in the forseeable future."

Galantas estimates that the worldwide market potential for Irish gold is about EUR3billion. Achieving just a small percentage of that would secure a position for the firm as a major luxury jewellery brand.

Mining in Co Tyrone got off to a controversial and far from glittering start.

A campaign against the mine was launched and environmentalists said the land was being plundered and would be left scarred in pursuit of a small amount of gold.

Environmental campaigner Ed Winters said disused gold mines in the United States were still polluting the surrounding areas.

But Galantas has insisted the mine is safe and clean. It said it had to monitor streams and air quality and undertake an extensive landscaping programme as part of its

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Big demand... Irish gold mined in the Sperrins
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 21, 2007
Words:472
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