Irish Natural Resources

Ireland’s Oil and Gas Resources Stretch to Lough Allen


According to the Petroleum Affairs Division, (PAD), current estimates indicate at least 10 billion barrels of oil lie off the west coast Ireland. The Irish Independent stated that energy exports have the potential to transform Ireland into a “new Middle East.”

“A recent regional assessment estimated resources in the Porcupine and Rockall Basins at ten billion barrels of oil. Estimates are based on comparisons with the geology of other regions with proven success,” explained Helen Chandler, spokesperson for the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

In a recent publication by the Petroleum Affairs Division, (PAD), entitled Atlantic Ireland, it stated: “The potential shows volumes of over 130 billion barrels of oil and 50 trillion cubic feet of gas.”

Most of these deposits have been pinpointed along anunderwater ridge known as the Atlantic Margin which runs parallel to the west coast of Ireland in a more or less straight line before arcing off towards Scotland and the North Sea onwards towards Scandinavia.

 The Dunquin gas field which is 200km off the coast of Kerry contains an “astonishing25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 4,130 million barrels of oil. According to the Irish Independent this alone would meet Ireland’s gas needs – at present consumption levels – for the next 62 years.

The Dunquin field is being principally developed by Exxon Mobil: “With Dunquin we are planning to drill wells next year and 2009. It is deep water, and as a rule of thumb, it takes about five years to get a field into production, so we are looking at 2013 to 2015.

Further up the coast is the Spanish Point field, which is 200km off the coast of Clare. The field has known reserves of one and a quarter trillion cubic feet of gas and 206 million barrels of oil, and is valued at €19.6bn. The drilling of wells will start next year and field production field will start in 2011.

 The Corrib field, in County Mayo, which has an estimated value of “anywhere” between €8bn to €87bn. The field is being developed by Shell, Marathon and Statoil, the Norwegian state oil corporation.

Inland lies the Lough Allen Basin – an area which was largely famous as a bog. But now the area has been “notionally” valued at €74.4 billion and contains 9.4 trillion cubic feet of gas and 1.5 billion barrels of oil

This vast field lies beneath Lough Allen and includes Cavan, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo.

“The answer to a large part of our security of supply could be in the North West of Ireland. It has the potential to turn from a gas importer to a gas exporter,” explains Tom Davitt, CEO of Finavera, who are planning to develop the field in the near future.

At present, nine new Frontier Exploration Licences and five Petroleum Prospecting Licences are outstanding for areas off the Donegal coast.




The arrival of Shell’s “Armada” in Co. Mayo
October 8, 2008, 8:10 pm
Filed under: Energy, Irish Mineral Resources, Irish Natural Resources | Tags: , , ,


The largest pipelaying vessel in the world, the 1,300 ft Solitaire arrived in Broadhaven Bay, in Co. Mayo. Shell has employed a “small army” of private security men, backed up by gardai, to protect the landfall area. The Dutch-owned Solitaire can lay between four and seven km of pipeline a day and normally carries a crew of around 400. Over the coming months, it is due to lay the pipe from the landfall site at Gelngar, 83km out to the Corrib Gas field. Shell’s External Affairs Manager John Egan said 22 vessels will be involved in the Corrib project: “You could describe it as the Corrib armada.”  Protestors claim Shell is attempting to construct the first 200m of the 9.2km onshore section of the pipeline before An Bord Pleanala makes its decision on the onshore section.

Timeline of Events:

Thursday, July 24th: Over 40 gardaí, stationed in the Shell compound, and 70 Shell specialist security forced the local community from a section of Glengad beach so that Shell could erect 10ft high fencing about 40ft down onto the beach. Using the Public Order Act, Gardai ordered the crowd to leave the area and then forcibly removed some of the protestors from the area. 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 they tore down the cliff-face to create a causeway down to the beach. According to protestors, it was a joint Garda & Shell operation.

Gardai and Shell security formed a cordon around where they were planning to put up the fencing, and then Gardai came in and forcibly removed the protestors who were inside the security bubble. There was little that the group of around 30 protestors could do but watch as 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 public beach in two, which of course means that users do not have the right of way through the beach.

The legality of the consents are an issue of major concern as it is unclear what permissions Shell have received and for what exact work. Green Party Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan has claimed that it was an “oversight” that the latest authorisations for the project were not published. A spokeswoman said that all authorisations and new information relating to the department’s role would be published on the Department’s website.

Shell 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. The further destruction of this Special Area of Conservation has continued unabated under the eyes of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

16th August 2008: The Rossport Solidarity Camp was set up again for the purposes of reorganising Shell to Sea resistance to Shell’s latest plans to construct its offshore section of the pipeline from Glengad out to the Corrib Gas Field. Protests are ongoing, involving both Shell to Sea activists and members of the local community.

29th August: An Irish naval vessel was deployed as protests mounted over the controversial Shell gas pipeline. The Irish Defence Forces said the LE Orla, with 39 crew onboard, was requested by gardaí as back-up at Broadhaven Bay, Co Mayo.

A spokesman for the naval service said he could not recall any of its ships ever being directly involved in an operation against civil demonstrations.

2nd September: Another Irish Naval Service vessel arrived off the Mayo Coast. The Irish Naval Service is composed of seven vessels. The priority which is being given to this operation is an indication its political character.

Tuesday September 9th: The Solitaire arrived in Broadhaven Bay, as the accompanying security operation intensified. Extra Gardaí; including special public order units have arrived. Local schoolteacher Maura Harrington commences hunger strike at the gates of the compound. Her demand is that the Solitaire leave the bay or else her hunger strike will continue.

Wednesday September 10th: Pipelaying work is temporarily suspended. According to local newspaper, The Mayo Echo, unnamed Irish Naval sources have stated their concern that a British nuclear submarine is positioned 11 miles off the Mayo coast and is providing direct assistance to the Irish authorities in monitoring communications. So far the Irish Government has refused either to confirm or deny this report. A Royal Navy spokesman, while refusing to confirm or deny the report, stated that if there is a submarine in Irish waters “then it wouldn’t be there without the permission of the Irish authorities.”

Thursday September 18th: Shell announces that the Solitaire pipe laying ship is to depart from Irish territorial waters and go to Scotland for repair and assessment. 

Friday September 19th: Maura Harrington ends her hunger strike.



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 (

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.