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.


      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.


      Large – Scale Zinc Find in Co. Clare
      June 26, 2008, 11:55 pm
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      Multinational mining firms are queuing secure involvement in  what could be Ireland’s largest zinc find since the Lisheen mine was developed in the early 1990s.

      Xstrata (formerly Noranda), Tech Cominco and Rio Tinto, are understood to be among those excited by the new discovery at Quinn, Co Clare, by Irish-owned Belmore Resources.

      The find was located close to the 19th century Kilbricken lead mine, in the Monanoe townland, and at the base of a large calcite deposit.

      Belmore, run by former Ovoca and Bula director Pat Mahoney, drilled a single hole at the Quinn prospect and encountered a 10-metre mineralisation zone, containing 14pc zinc and 5.5pc lead, at a depth of 450 metres. Silver was also present at a grading of 62.84 grams per tonne.

      The grades are among the highest ever encountered during drilling for zinc or lead in Ireland, rivalling the best results from the Minco prospect at Pallas Green in Co Limerick.

      Belmore is now considering its next step, which will probably involver further drilling to outline the full extent of the mineralisation.

      By doing so, the directors believe they will boost the attractiveness of the venture to possible partners, including Xstrata and Tech Minco, both of whom are carrying out major exploration programmes on zinc prospects in Co Limerick.

      Tech Cominco is the joint venture partner of Connemara Mining and has encountered a significant deposit of lead-zinc in the Stonepark area of Co Limerick. Xstrata meanwhile is in a joint venture with Minco and has spent the past three years drilling on a large zinc find at Pallas Green in Limerick.

      Further positive results would help boost the company’s share price, Mr Mahoney stated, adding he would be reluctant to conduct a fund raising at the current share price.

      Shares in the group are trading at about 6p each, and while this is twice their level before news of the Co Clare zinc find broke, a funding now would still involve a substantial dilution in equity for the existing stockholders.

      The three major shareholders are Mr Mahoney (15pc), company chairman Ian Forest (16pc) and exploration expert George Eno (16pc).