Irish Natural Resources

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.


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