There is a long history of mining in Ireland and, therefore, there are quite a number of small historic mine sites and also some sites that are quite large. A number of these historic sites have continuing problems today.
There is currently no specific legislation in Ireland dealing with the remediation of orphaned or abandoned mine sites. However, the Exploration and Mining Division are involved in various mine rehabilitation projects, as well as being responsible for safety aspects with regard to shafts, buildings etc.
Silvermines, Co. Tipperary
Since 2005 the State has undertaken the remediation of the former mining sites in the Silvermines area, with North Tipperary County Council acting as agents for the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. The overall Silvermines remediation project encompasses a number of elements, one of the largest of which was at the Gortmore mine tailings facility.
Gortmore Tailings Management facility (TMF)
The first phase of remediation works at the Gortmore TMF, which involved the placement of a geotextile layer and a 300mm stone capillary layer over approx. 20 hectares of the uncovered surface area of the site, was completed in December 2008. The second phase involved the placement of soil and topsoil over the stone capillary layer and ancillary works, including buttress strengthening, surface drainage works and remedial works to surface ponds and wetlands. It commenced in 2009 and was completed with final soil placement and grass seeding taking place in 2010.
Works at the other sites (Shallee; Ballygowan; Magcobar; Gorteenadiha): Health & Safety works, demolitions, clearance etc.
A comprehensive programme of minor remediation works to make the other sites safe commenced in late summer 2010 and was completed in early 2011. This work comprised pre-contouring of mine waste where appropriate; demolition of unsafe structures; infilling, sealing and capping of shafts; removal of asbestos from buildings; fencing.
By the end of 2011 expenditure on the project totalled €11.174m. In the context of the current economic situation, funding for the Department's capital projects, including the Silvermines project, was reduced and in consequence this necessitated a rephasing of previously anticipated project elements.
Garryard Tailings Lagoon
In March 2012, An Bord Pleanála awarded planning permission for a Mine Waste Management Facility at Garryard Tailings Lagoon, Gorteenadiha, Silvermines, County Tipperary (conceptualised in 2002, refined from 2007 and further modified in 2009). Some years ago, before the contraction in available resources was fully apparent, in anticipation of future work, North Tipperary County Council sought permission from An Bord Pleanála for the facility.
The Garryard element of the project would, once started, have had to be brought to completion as a single phase whereby guaranteed financing of the entirety of the works would be necessary. There are not sufficient resources available to the Department to advance the project currently or in the foreseeable future and so no action will be taken in respect of the planning permission.
The Minister of State has agreed that the remediation works planned for the Garryard site will not proceed until such time as sufficient funds are in place to execute the full project to completion, and has agreed not to proceed with the application for a waste licence from the EPA until there was a real prospect of the project being able to proceed within the life of the licence. One of the conditions of the planning permission is that no operations take place until the requisite waste licence is obtained from the EPA.
The Department continues to engage with North Tipperary County Council, as agents for the project, to ensure the protection of the investment already made, bringing to conclusion of current elements and the long-term approach to the project, including maintenance. Contracts will, however, be put in place to provide for continued monitoring of the Silvermines sites to ensuring no significant change in conditions occurs without detection.
Initial Characterisation Study of the Silvermines Area, May 2000
An extract from the report by Natural Resource Consultants can be found at the following link
Avoca Co. Wicklow
The Avoca river, Co.Wicklow which flows southwards through the Avoca mine site is overlooked by upland areas known as the East and West Avoca mine areas. The mine area was subdivided into a number of properties in the 18th and 19th centuries, each named after the townlands in which they were located. From northeast to southwest, these were Connary, Cronebane, Tigroney on the eastern side of the river, and Ballygahan and Ballymurtagh on the western side. The East and West Avoca division is a relatively recent one.
Since 1720, mining has played a large role in the economy of Avoca, Co.Wicklow. Among the minerals produced in the last two centuries, copper has been primarily mined along with silver and to a lesser extent gold.
Pollution of the Avoca River by mine water discharging from drainage adits of abandoned copper and sulphur mines at Avoca, Co.Wicklow, Ireland, is a long-recognised problem. In addition there is diffuse flow into the river. The river is severely affected by the mine water and is considered by the EPA to be the most severely polluted stretch of river in Ireland. Many studies have taken place in recent years relating to the Avoca River and its remediation. Among these, the University of Newcastle, in connection with the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board, produced a report in July 2003 entitled Restoring the Avoca River. The preferred option for remediation was active treatment. However this can only be applied to the point discharges and does not take into account the diffuse flow and contaminated river sediments which are also contaminating the river quality.
The Camp Dresser McKee Ltd (CDM) report on the feasibility of managing and remediating the former mine site at Avoca, Co.Wicklow was completed in December 2008 and recommends active treatment of the point discharges into the Avoca River as well as treating the principal (spoil piles) cause of the contamination. This Feasibility study also recognizes the importance of the diffuse flow and contaminated sediments and provides solutions for these also.
This report can be downloaded as PDF files from the links below:
Feasibility Study for the Management and Remediation of the Avoca Mining Site - CDM report December 2008- Executive Summary
Feasibility Study for the Management and Remediation of the Avoca Mining Site -CDM report December 2008 - Full Report
Feasibility Study for the Management and Remediation of the Avoca Mining Site - CDM report December 2008- Investigative Reports Volume 1
Feasibility Study for the Management and Remediation of the Avoca Mining Site - CDM report December 2008 - Investigative Reports Volume 2
GWP Report and Maps
GWP Consultants (GWP) Health and Safety Audit of Avoca Mine Site, 2007.
Review of Tailings Dam Stability Avoca June 1982
A copy of the report by Golder Associates can be found at the following Link
Allihies & Bunmahon
The Exploration and Mining Division have been responsible for the "making safe" of several mine shafts in both the Allihies area, Co.Cork and the Bunmahon area, Co.Waterford. The Mining Heritage Trust of Ireland has been particularly involved in the conservation of the internationally unique Man Engine House at the Mountain Mine in Allihies.
Coalfields - Slieve Ardagh, Arigna and Leinster
The Exploration and Mining Division has responsibilities in relation to the safety aspects of certain historic coal mines in the Castlecomer (Co.Kilkenny), Slieve Ardagh (Co.Tipperary) and Arigna (Cos. Leitrim, Roscommon) Coalfields.
In recent years, a number of historic workings have been made safe.