Ireland: Mining, Minerals and Fuel Resources

Topics Covered

Welcome to Ireland
Overview of Resources
Metals
Industrial Minerals and Gemstones
Investment
Sources

Welcome to Ireland

Ireland is a small island nation located to the west of United Kingdom. The total area of the country is 70,273 km2, and it has a population of 4,722,028 as of July 2011. The country’s climate is mostly temperate maritime.

The national flag of Ireland.
Image Credit: CIA Factbook.

Ireland gained independence from UK after years of guerrilla warfare and then withdrew from British Commonwealth to become a part of the European Union (EU).

Ireland has a trade-dependent economy, with minerals accounting for 1% of its exports and the mining sector accounting for 1% of the country’s GDP. The financial downturn during 2008–2010 badly affected the mineral industry. The budget deficit of 2010 reached 32.4% of the GDP making the deficit the largest in the world. The country’s GDP as of 2011 was $183.9 billion.

The mining industry of Ireland is small, employing about 1000 people. The natural resources of the country consist of silver, copper, lead, zinc, natural gas, peat, barite, limestone, dolomite, and gypsum.

Overview of Resources

Ireland is one of the top producers of lead and zinc in the world. However, the mining sector and related industries added only a small percentage of the country’s GDP.

Most of the mining companies are privately owned. As a member of the EU, 50% of its exports go to countries within the EU.

The major mineral export partners of the country include:

  • United States, 22.1%
  • United Kingdom, 16.1%
  • Belgium, 15.1%
  • Germany, 8.1%
  • France, 5.3%
  • Spain, 4.2%

The map of Ireland. Image Credit: CIA Factbook.

Metals

There are five operating mines dealing with zinc and lead mining in Ireland. Out of the five, the Tara lead and zinc mine, in Navan, Co. Meath, owned by Boliden Tara Mines Ltd. (a subsidiary of Boliden AB of Sweden) is considered to be the leading zinc mine in terms of volume in the EU.

In early 2010, Galmoy Mines Ltd. resumed lead mining operations at its Galmoy Mine after being shut down due to the global decrease in prices of base metals in 2009. The Galmoy underground zinc mine is under closure status as most of the remnant ore has been extracted. Mining operations are expected to conclude during the course of this year but the sales are stated to continue till early 2013.

In 2010, United Company RUSAL of Russia also resumed operations at its alumina refinery located in Aughinish Island. The company produced 1.86 million Mt of alumina, which was a 50% increase in comparison to the production statistics of 2009.

Industrial Minerals and Gemstones

Dolomite and limestone are produced by Roadstone Wood from an open pit mine at Maddoxtown.

Irish Gypsum conducted gypsum extraction from two mines in southern Co. Monaghan.

About 300,000 t of gypsum was produced from an opencast operation in Knocknacran and an underground mine at Drummond in 2010.

Investment

Ireland’s zinc ore mining operations are expected to continue steadily in the coming years, and experts state that the country is likely to remain a substantial producer of alumina and lead ore.

Many mining companies are conducting exploration activities to locate new mineral resources, but the importance of gold, lead, and zinc will remain unchanged.

The country is keen on improving its oil and gas exploration activities to upgrade the energy sector, especially exploration activities for petroleum and gas off the coast of Ireland.

Companies such as Connemara Mining, an exploration firm, continue operating in the mining sector and own several licenses including zinc/lead exploration licenses. Several surveys indicate positive results for gold mineralization on the Wicklow-Wexford border. It owns 34 licenses covering an area of approximately 1,250 km2.

Ireland’s mining sector may not be a very significant contributor to the economy but it is definitely on the path to steady growth and development.

Disclaimer: The Author of this article does not imply any investment recommendation and some content is speculative in nature. The Author is not affiliated in any way with any companies mentioned and all statistical information is publically available.

Sources

http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/country/2010/myb3- 2010-ei.pdf

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world- factbook/geos/ei.html

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