South of the border in the ROI, zinc, lead, lithium and gold are the main targets of exploration. Multinationals from Canada, Sweden, UK and Switzerland hope to make the next big zinc find, after previous finds at Galmoy and Lisheen, and the still operating Tara Mines. Canada and China are invested in a lithium find in Co. Carlow and Wicklow, with two Irish companies leading the exploration for gold. Irish companies have been important in many of the finds that multinational companies are now sitting on. Their tactic has been to explore, find and sell on deposits to bigger companies.
In the North, Canadian Dalradian Gold (now owned by Orion Mining Finance) have bought concessions for 10% of NI, hoping to develop a mining district beyond their current proposal for a gold mine at Curraghinalt, Co. Tyrone. As well as companies from Canada, NI concessions are also held by companies from the UK, Turkey, Australia and Ireland searching for gold, copper, cobalt, zinc, lead and silver.
The only project on the island to have a live planning application submitted is Dalradian Gold’s proposal for Curraghinalt. A cyanide processing plant was originally part of this project proposal yet the company was forced to rescind this to get the project over the line. However, the local community haven’t bought into the plan to export the cyanide processing to another community elsewhere. They are also wary the company will revert to its original intentions once permission is secured. Extensive exploration has already been carried out, including over 700 boreholes and a 1700m tunnel through the hillside.
There are two operating metal mines on the island: Tara Mines, Co. Meath (open since 1977) and Cavanacaw Gold Mine, Co. Tyrone (in operation since 2007).
Tara Mines, the largest zinc mine in Europe, plans to extend extraction by 20 years and 1.9 underground kilometres. The waste dump would consume an additional 58 hectares of land, reaching 22 stories high.
Galantas Gold’s Cavanacaw Gold Mine also wants to extend underground, a shift from their open pit method of extraction, and has defeated a legal challenge that aimed to halt this expansion. However, their operations have been nevertheless halted as the PSNI have refused to use even more public resources to supervise their increased blasting plans (a requirement in NI) that Galantas Gold refused to pay for.
There is also a gypsum mine in operation at Knacknacran, Co. Monaghan, which has been the cause of significant subsidence in recent years. Large crevices and sinkholes have left the local Gaelic Athletic Association pitch, clubhouse and community centre severely damaged and forced the evacuation of local families and businesses.
It is not only the gypsum mine whose historical extraction is causing continued harm.
In ROI, the Environmental Protection Agency has identified 27 abandoned mines that still pose a risk to the environment and human health.
Four of these have operated and closed under modern legislation; the Avoca mines in Co. Wicklow, the Silver mines and Lisheen mine in Co. Tipperary, and Galmoy mine in Co. Kilkenny.