Lagan Cement, which operates a cement plant and quarries at Kinnegad, Co Meath, is proposing to burn meat and bone meal to replace up to 45 per cent of the coal currently burned at the plant.
The sale of meat and bone meal has been banned in the Republic since 2000 amid fears that it is the contaminant which spreads the animal "mad cow" disease BSE, and its human equivalent CJD.
There is no other licensed incinerator of meat and bone meal in the Republic. Stocks are stored or sent abroad for incineration. Previous plans for a meat and bone meal incinerator in south Tipperary led to a long-running dispute in 2003 between millionaire racing enthusiast John Magnier of Coolmore Stud and National By-Products.
Mr Magnier threatened to take his business abroad if the incinerator went ahead. The plans were withdrawn.
Lagan Cement, which holds an Environmental Management Systems Accreditation ISO 14001, is part of the Belfast-based Lagan Group of companies which had combined turnover approaching _364 million in 2004. Located near the border with Co Westmeath, the Kinnegad operation produces 600,000 tonnes of cement a year, covers 500 acres and includes two quarries as well as the cement kiln.
While both Meath County Council and the Environmental Protection Agency said they had not received applications for permission yesterday, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) produced by Lagan Cement confirmed the company was "seeking" permission.
The EIS acknowledged in its preamble that: "Lagan Cement is seeking planning permission from Meath County Council for a change of fuel at the Killaskillen cement plant at Lansdown, Killaskillen, Kinnegad, Co Meath. Specifically it is proposed to replace up to 45 per cent of the coal burned at the plant with meat and bone meal."
Speaking to The Irish Times yesterday, a spokesman for Lagan Cement, Jude Lagan, refused to confirm the plans.