Northern Irish company Dalradian, which has spent £130m over the past decade on works and studies to support its planning application for an environmentally responsible, underground gold-silver-copper mine in west Tyrone, has announced details of its future plans for a three-year, £15m skills development package.

The mine will directly employ around 350 people when operational and create around 1,000 jobs in total when indirect and induced jobs are included. Based on the experience of other mines, Dalradian anticipates that it will recruit at least 90% of its employees from the local area.

The initial £15m programme will coincide with the mine’s two-year construction and its first full year of underground operations. Further training will then be provided on an ongoing basis to maintain and develop additional skills.

Given the high-tech nature of modern mining, Dalradian plans to make extensive use of virtual reality tools and simulators. The technology is similar to that used to train aircraft pilots and has already been demonstrated at Omagh-based South West College. The company will also provide hands-on experience with mining equipment adapted for training purposes.

The programme will be supported by an international mining school with a track record in delivering training and by accessing training support from South West College.

Initial training and mining operations will be provided by overseas mining specialists, but the skills development package will provide a managed transition to a predominantly local workforce. Dalradian intend to develop the training in-house and may deliver it in conjunction with the local college.

Training will occur in three stages starting with health and safety before progressing to job specific roles using virtual reality, simulators, training equipment and, finally, supervised on-the-job training.