Irish Natural Resources

Shell Pipeline Now Exempt from Planning Permission

On Thursday, July 24th at approximately 8:00am over 40 Gardaí, and 70 Shell specialist security forced the local community from a section of Glengad Beach to enable Shell contractors to erect 10ft high security fencing about 40ft down onto the beach. Using the Public Order Act, Superintendent John Gilligan ordered local people to leave the area. Gardaí then forcibly removed some of the protestors from the area. The members of the local community had been gathering from before 4am because they feared that Shell would begin work early as they had on the previous morning when the cliff-face was torn down to create a causeway down to the beach. It appears that the entire operation was a joint Garda and Shell security operation.

The fencing was erected down to the water’s edge. It is presumed that Shell will seek to extend the fencing further once the tide has gone out again. However far it extends, it already cuts the beach in two, which of course means that beach goers do not have the right of way through the beach. Shell to Sea campaigner Terence Conway stated “The gardaí have always spoken about keeping the roads open for the public and Shell alike however today they are willing to close off a public beach so that Shell can fence it off”. The legality of the consents given are an issue of major concern as it is now unclear what permissions Shell have received and for what exact work. While Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan has claimed that it was an “oversight” that the latest authorisations for the project were not published. This was an “oversight”, the spokeswoman said, and all authorisations and new information relating to the department’s role would be published on the website from today.

Shell Oil is now attempting to construct up to the first 200m metres of the onshore section of the pipeline without planning permission. Although the remaining 9.2km of the onshore pipeline is presently before An Bord Pleanala, this first 200m metres is due to be laid before a decision on the rest of the onshore section has been made. Terence Conway continued ”The fact is that this first onshore section is the most dangerous part of the whole project as the pressure could be as high as 345bar and still it will not have gone through any planning if it is constructed”.

The further destruction of the Special Conservation Area has continued unabated under the eyes of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The Corrib protest has now moved to sea as North Mayo fishermen called on the Government to protect their rights to continue using the traditional fishing grounds.
A flotilla of over 30 boats, and up to 100 fishermen, appeared on the edge of Broadhaven  Bay. Sailing from Killala, Belderrig, Blacksod, Porturlin, Frenchport and Rinroe, they tied up to applause from the large  quayside crowd of supporters. The protest was organised by the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association (EIFA), and was a symbolic show of solidarity ahead of the arrival of the world’s largest sub-sea pipe-laying boat, the Solitaire (1,300ft long) – now anchored off Killybegs. Over the coming months, it is due to lay the pipe from the landfall site at Gelngar, 83km out to the Corrib field.

The protest was also convened to highlight the stand-off between Shell and the fishermen’s organisation over the location of the refinery’s ouflow pipe in a rich fishery.  Members of the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association say they are still considering staging a sea blockade if Shell goes ahead with the pipeline which will have an outfall point outside the bay. Broadhaven Bay is a Special Area of Conservation, and the EIFA has expressed concerns to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Community, Rural, and Gaeltacht Affairs over possible damage to fish stocks.

The Department of the Environment has now granted permission to the Corrib gas developers to construct a key section of onshore pipeline without approval from An Bord Pleanála under the Strategic Infrastructure Act. Shell EP Ireland and its consultants RPS had said earlier this summer that the entire onshore section would be submitted to An Bord Pleanála under the new fast-tracking legislation, apart from two estuary crossings which are regarded as “marine” and come under the Foreshore Act.

The Department of the Environment has therefore stated that a high-pressure section at the Glengad landfall which runs under Dooncarton mountain, location of a 2003 landslide, and across a public beach used by locals and tourists is “exempted” from planning permission under the Planning and Development Act 2000. Shell Oil intends to start laying the offshore section of the pipeline very soon. Almost inevitably, this will lead to a confrontation with the inshore fishermen.



Process of Asset-Stripping ESB Intensifies – Four Power Stations to be offloaded

The Spanish energy firm Endesa has stated that it has made a formal bid for €450m to buy four power plants from the ESB.

The ESB is being forced to sell the plants under a plan drawn up by the energy regulator, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), to reduce and downsize the publicly – owned energy companies share of the Irish Energy Market.

Endesa is a subsidiary of Enel and is bidding against other parties, including Viridian Group, Bord Gais, International Power and Star Capital Partners, all of whom have submitted bids for the power stations.

It is also thought that Scottish & Southern Energy, Britain’s second-biggest generator, and E.ON, Germany’s biggest utility, may also bid for the plants.

A year ago, the ESB announced its intention to bow to the CER request to reduce its generating capacity by 1,300MW and said it would be selling the peaking plants at Great Island in Wexford and Marina Steam Turbine in Cork together with the Poolbeg and Tarbert power plants.

The programme of asset sales will bring the ESB’s share of the newly expanded single energy market north and south of the border to about 27%, while its share of the Irish power generation market is about 44%.

Following the divestment of assets, the ESB said it will maintain its market share of power generation at well below 40% to facilitate continuing competition in the energy market, continuing competition, that is., from the large multinational energy concerns who are to be handed more than half of the Irish Energy market in one stroke.

In return for agreeing to the asset sales, the ESB was granted approval by the CER to construct a new 430MW power station at Aghada, Co Cork.

Endesa made its offer on June 11th 2008, and, along with the other bidders, will hear the outcome of the process in late July 2008. Endesa’s offer of €450 million is in line with a valuation of ESB assets by an independent consultant.

Under a strategy outlined recently by chief executive Padraig McManus, the ESB is to make a major commitment to renewable energy and to halving its carbon emissions within 12 years, with the aim of achieving carbon net-zero by 2035. It is extremely doubtful that the ESB will even exist by that date.

“About half of the expected €22bn investment package is geared towards investments in our renewable future,” the company said. Of this, €4bn will be directly invested in renewable energy projects and €6.5bn will be spent facilitating renewables, including smart metering and smart networks.

”The plan is that by 2020 the ESB will be delivering one-third of its electricity from renewable generation. This will include over 1,400MW of wind generation.”

It is extremely doubtful that this target will be achieved, given the established record of the Irish Government in developing Ireland’s potentially huge wind – power capacity. ESB statements about transferring power capacity to renewable and reducing  Carbon Emissions is simply more Government greenwash which is designed as a smokescreen for a massive transfer of existing power generating capacity which at present lies in the hands of the public to multinational corporations.


Confrontation at site of Corrib pipeline
July 23, 2008, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Irish Mineral Resources, Irish Natural Resources | Tags: , ,

Protests have occured at Glengad for the second day at the Corrib Gas Pipe line in Co Mayo local people have clashed with security staff employed by contractors working on the project. The protest took place at Glengad Beach where the pipeline from the off shore gas field is to be brought ashore. There were a series of scuffles as local residents tried to stop construction work at the site.

The resident’s organisation Pobal Chill Chomian called on the Green minister’s for the Environment and communications John Gormley and Eamon Ryan to order the work to be halted until rigorous geologic survey and examination is completed. In a statement Shell E&P Ireland Limited said the protest had a minimal impact on the work schedule and the company had obtained all necessary permits and consents for the work.

Shell went on to state that the site excavation works at Glengad are being witnessed by staff from the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Gardaí, who were at the scene, made no arrests. Yesterday 12 people were arrested and subsequently released, a file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions. The 12, who are members of a newly formed community group, were taking part in a protest at Glengad Beach where the pipeline is due to brought ashore. The group is opposing the location of the €300m gas refinery 9km inland at Bellanboy.

The group says it wants the gas refinery relocated to an area on the north coast of Mayo where they say will present less of a health and safety hazard to the local community and the environment.


“Confrontation at site of Corrib pipeline” – RTE News (

“12 released after Corrib pipeline protest” – RTE News (

Fishing Boat and Naval Service Vessel in Confrontation off Wexford Coast
July 23, 2008, 8:39 pm
Filed under: Irish Fisheries, Irish Natural Resources | Tags: , , ,

Yesterday, on Kilmore Quay fishing vessel and a Naval service Ship were engaged in a confrontation about off the Co Wexford port this afternoon. The Naval Service stated that the vessel was detained for fishing for scallops without a licence.

The owners of the fishing boat said they had been catching scallops as a by-catch of other fishing and understood they had been allowed to do that and had never been challenged about it before.

The owners said they had two boxes of scallops on board and they say this is ‘another new tactic against fishermen’.

Two Naval officers from the LÉ Emer boarded the fishing vessel, the Emer Jane, earlier this afternoon and ordered it to proceed to Dunmore East in Co Waterford.

The skipper of the vessel reportedly refused and said he would go to his home port of Kilmore Quay and that the Navy could arrest him there if they wanted to.

The owners of the fishing vessel have claimed that the LÉ Emer threatened to open fire on them.

But a spokesman for the Navy said it ‘strongly denied even the suggestion that the Navy threatened to open fire’.

The fishing vessel is continuing to sail towards Kilmore Quay, but is not being followed by the Navy, which has also taken its two officers off the boat.

A Navy spokesman said they had gathered information on the alleged offence and would be forwarding this to the gardaí and the fisheries authorities to have the incident followed up.


“Navy, fishing boat in Kilmore dispute”

Operational Irish Mines: Tara, Galmoy and Lisheen

Ireland currently has three underground zinc-lead mines in production. Over the last 40 years a string of significant base metal discoveries have been made, including the giant ore deposit at Navan: Tara Mines. Zinc-lead ores are also currently exploited from two other underground operations in South-Central Ireland: Lisheen and Galmoy. Ireland now ranks as the seventh largest producer of zinc concentrates in the world, and the twelfth largest producer of lead concentrates. The combined output from these mines, three of Europe’s most modern and developed mines, make Ireland the largest zinc producer in Europe and the second largest producer of lead.

A. The Great Tara Mine:

Tara lead and zinc mine is located at Navan, County Meath, 50km northwest ofDublin. The mine opened in 1977, and was acquired by Outokumpu (a Finnish State mining corporation) in 1986. In January 2004 it was transferred to New Boliden (a Swedishmining corporation), as part of an asset exchange between the two Nordic companies.

Placed on care-and-maintenance in 2001 on account of high zinc production costs, Tarawas restarted in 2003 and produced 2.55Mt (million tonnes) of ore, the highest tonnage since 1995. Some of the output is delivered to Boliden’s Odda and Kokkola zinc refineries, both formerly owned by Outokumpu, and the remainder goes to various European customers.

Tara is the largest zinc mine in Europe and the fifth largest in the world. The mine currently employs 700 people. Some 2.6 million tonnes of ore are mined annually, which yield zinc and lead concentrates containing 200,000 tonnes of zinc concentrate and 40,000 tonnes of lead concentrate. Broken ore from both production and development at Tara is delivered to one of five underground crushers and reduced in size to less than 150mm before being carried by conveyor to a 3,600t capacity storage bin of at the base of the production shaft. Skip loading and hoisting are automatic, and ore is supplied, at an hourly rate of 570 tonnes, to the surface coarse ore storage building, with a 30,000t capacity, known as the Tepee.

B. The Galmoy Mine:

The Galmoy mine is located in the Southern Midlands, on the boundary with Laois and Kilkenny, 110 km from Dublin. Arcon International Resources Plc, an Irish registered mining and minerals exploration company, has developed Ireland’s latest (and smallest) lead zinc mine. Arcon’s Galmoy Mine began production in 1997, and has an estimated life of 15 years. The total resources of Galmoy have been estimated at 10 Mt, grading at 11.8% zinc and 1.3% lead. Subsequent exploration drilling led to the discovery of the G satellite orebodies and the K and CW South orebodies. Following submission of a second planning application and environmental impact statement, approval was granted to mine these additonal reserves in 2002. The R zone was discovered in the second half of 2002 and a third planning application and mine license submission to mine the R zone was made in 2003. The Galway Mine produces 650,000 tons of ore per year at target grades of 11.3% zinc and 1% lead.

C. The Lisheen Mine:

      The Lisheen Mine is located in Co. Tipperary. The first ore was mined in 1999, and commercial production began in 2001. The initial plan was to produce 160,000 tons peryear of zinc concentrate, to be increased to 330,000 tons per year of zinc concentrate and 40,000 tons per year of lead in concentrate at full production. Lisheen is expected to produce approximately 4.83 million dry metric tonnes of zinc and lead concentrates over the estimated 14-year lifespan of the mine.

      Both the Lisheen and Galmoy mines are located on the Rathdowney Trend mineralizedbelt, southwest of Dublin. It comprises sedimentary rocks, mainly limestone, formed approximately 320 million years ago.

      Ireland’s role as a major lead and zinc producer is expected to increase as the combined Lisheen, Tara and Galmoy operations begin full production. Ireland is now Europe’s largest producer of lead and zinc and now produces 3% of the world’s zinc and 2% of the world’s lead each year. The Exploration and Mining Division of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources state:

      In terms of tonnes of zinc discovered per sq km, Ireland ranks 1st in the world.”

      Several new projects were expected to be developed by now, but the declining prices of zinc and lead had forced several of these projects to be cancelled, at least for the time being.

      Galmoy is licenced for 21 years. Dead rent for the first year is €63,486 ($55,500 for US companies, the same for the second year, €126,973 ($111,000) for the third and subsequent years, and €25,394 ($22,000) after closure. Royalties are payable at 1.5% for the first three years, 2.5% for the fourth, and 3% for the fifth and subsequent years. The terms for Lisheen are almost identical, except that for the third year on, dead rent is €380,291 ($333,000), and royalties for the sixth and subsequent years is 4.5%.

      In addition to these terms, a raft of tax concessions are available to mining companies. The following are the most significant of these:

      • Allowances may be claimed for exploration expenditure, including abortive exploration dating back 10 years. An allowance of up to 120% is available.

      • Development allowances can be claimed, equal to the difference between expenditure on working the mine, and the entire worth of the mine’s assets.

      • Expenditure on plant and machinery qualifies for an immediate 20% allowance, wear and tear allowances of 32.5% for the first year, and 12% for up to eight years. This allows companies to claim a total allowance for plant and machinery of up to 120%.

      • There are allowances for industrial buildings (4% per annum), and compensation in the event that the sale value of buildings is less than their value on paper. There are also allowances for the cost of acquiring material assets.

      • Expenditure after closure of the mine, including rehabilitation, can be written off against profits from previous years. If a seperate fund is established to provide for closure costs and rehabilitation,, the contributions to the fund can be written off over the mine’s lifetime. Withdrawals from the fund are taxable, but expenditures may be offset against them.

      The State Mining Agencies:

      The Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources provides direct technical assistance to exploration and mining companies in Ireland through the folloowing agencies.

      The Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI), is the national earth science agency and is responsible for providing direct geological advice and information and for the acquisition of data for this purpose. The GSI has conducted many projects of direct interest to the mineral industry. The GSI also functions as a “line division” of the Department.

      The Exploration and Mining Division (EMD), of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, like its counterpart the Petroleum Affairs Division, (PAD) [responsible for the exploration and development of oil and gas resources in onshore and offshore Ireland]. EMD is the reference point for the exploration and mining industry, this publicly funded service is directly available for advice and assistance ‘from arrival in Ireland through to the opening of a mine.’

      EMD comprises both administrative and technical staff, and its functions incorporate the following:

      • Exploration and mining in Ireland: the regulation and permitting of exploration for and extraction of minerals (excluding petroleum, stone, sand, gravel and clay).

      • Promoting inward investment in mineral exploration.

      • Policy development in the areas of mineral exploration and extraction.

        60% of all minerals in the State, and the exclusive right to work these minerals, are vested in the Minister for Comunications Energy and Natural Resources.

        According to the Department, Ireland is ‘internationally renowned’ as a ‘major zinc-lead mining province.’ This statement strongly suggests that the Department does not see its role as securing the best possible return for the people of Ireland for extraction of their resources. Instead, Ireland is a ‘province,’ with no inherent claim to whatever minerals happen to be found there. The mineral resources of Ireland are, according to the legislation, the ‘property of the Minister.’

      As a result, it is fitting that as few obstacles as possible are put in the way of the exploitation of this ‘province’ by private mining corporations.

      Clontibret Gold Mine declared to be the largest find in Ireland yet Discovered

      Today, Irish exploration company Conroy Diamonds and Gold has substantially upgraded its estimate of gold at Clontibret in Co. Monaghan to more than one million ounces.

      The mine, discovered by Conroy Diamonds, is believed to be the largest gold mine ever found in Ireland or Britain. Ireland is already the largest zinc producer in Europe and the second largest producer of lead. Ireland now produces 3% of the world’s zinc and 2% of the world’s lead per year. The Exploration and Mining Division of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources state: “In terms of tonnes of zinc discovered per sq. km, Ireland ranks 1st in the world.”

      The company issued a formal announcement to the London Stock Exchange that the area outside Clontibret has more than one million ounces of gold.

      The company says it believes that this is the first gold resource of over a million ounces to be reported in Ireland or the UK. The news sent the company’s share price up almost 25% on London’s AIM market.

      Professor Richard Conroy, chairman of Conroy Diamonds and Gold, said that in gold business terms a million ounces is a significant amount of gold, and the find puts his company into a new league.

      Conroy says that indicated resources for the Co. Monaghan site now stand at 440,000 ounces with an additional inferred resource of 590,000. The latest report relates to an area amounting to only 20% of the Clontibret target.

      Professor Conroy said this is a good time to find more gold, as it is now trading at $942 an ounce. He said that the company worked away when the price of gold was below $300 an ounce, believing that the price would come up and also believing that the area of County Monaghan was worth exploring.

      ‘Virtually everyone else had stopped exploring at that stage but we kept on, in a somewhat lonely furrow at times, but it certainly turned out well,’ he said.

      The conditions of mineral resource exploration and development in Ireland are laid out in the successive Minerals Development Acts, 1940-1999. This legislation, considered as a unit, comprises the Minerals Development Act 1940, Petroleum and Other Minerals Development Act 1960, and the Minerals Developments: 1979, 1995, and 1999.

      The actual terms under which minerals are explored and exploited in Ireland are set down in the Finance Acts 1922 and 1999 (and the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 as amended by the latter), and various legislative provisions.

      The Finance Act 1999 introduced a sliding scale for corporation tax. The Act mandated a 4% cut every year from 1998 to 2003, in other words, an overall cut from 32% to 12.5%. There is no provision for a review of this low rate, for instance after instance after a prescribed term of years: the Act states that the rate is to remain at 12.5% for ‘each subsequent financial year.’ This suggests a determination in state policy to retain this rate of tax for future years, regardless of the economic conditions.

      In the 1999 Act, there are separate sections covering the taxation rate for both oil / gas and mineral resources. There are no state mining companies. Minerals are developed by private enterprise, by means of a license issued under the Minerals Development Acts 1940-1999. These licenses are legally binding contracts.

      According to the Department, there is ‘wide discretion’ regarding the type of payment or royalty on a mine. Mining rights can be given free of charge if the Minister deems this to be ‘in the public interest.’ The criteria the Department employs to decide on payments to the state by private mining companies are as follows:

      * The likely returns on a company’s investment.

      * International royalty rates (no definition of what constitutes ‘international’ is provided; neither are any comparative data).

      * The ‘need to continue to attract international exploration funding.’

      * The ‘expectations of the State as the mineral owners and the developer’s achieving a fair return,’ having regard to economic conditions, and ‘regarding the need to allow for the many exploration failures.’

      These criteria seem less about achieving a fair return to the taxpayer for hte profits gained by mining companies from low-cost resources, than a public relations-based defence of the low terms routinely granted to the mining companies. What constitutes a ‘fair return’ is not defined.

      It seems fair to assume that ‘economic conditions’ are not a factor, and that the main consideration is conceding terms overwhelming to the advantage of mining companies.

      The compensation payable to the state consists of ‘Dead Rent,’ a yearly payment decoupled from production volume, and royalties on the sale price of the extracted ore. The company’s transport costs are deducted from this compensation. The ‘commonest system’ for industrial minerals, according to the Department, is based on royalty payments per tonnage extracted. Rates are ‘likely’ to be 25 cents to 50 cents per tonne extraced.