In the case of all applications for Prospecting Licences or renewals of Prospecting Licences, my Department screens (i.e. assesses) the proposed prospecting activities submitted in relation to the areas specified and makes a determination as to whether the activities may have the potential to have a significant effect on the environment.
Screening of any potential impact on Natura 2000 sites (Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs)) is undertaken in compliance with the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 (SI 477 of 2011). For any proposed prospecting works within or in close proximity to such sites, my Department consults with the National Parks and Wildlife Service before the proposed works are approved.
If, on the basis of a company's preliminary exploration activities and analysis, specific locations for drilling or 'drill targets' are identified, any such proposed drilling would be subject to a further screening assessment under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations and determination.
In the case of the application referred to by the Deputy there is no requirement at this stage for an EIA as no specific drill targets have been proposed.